ISIS is a terrorist group that is dominating the news right now. America has faced other terror organizations in the past. But why does ISIS seem so terrifying? So close? Because they are only a tweet away, right in the palm of your hand where you hold your smartphone. Terror organizations have used the internet in the past to further their cause. But no other organization has used social media so masterfully like ISIS as means to capture the world’s attention. Why is ISIS’s use of social media so powerful? Because anyone in the world can access it at any time, they have a clear picture of who their target audience is and they are employing a successful social media strategy to grow their influence worldwide.
THE PAST – Unfortunately, terrorist organizations using the Internet to recruit fighters and spread their message are nothing new.
Previously, we saw videos of al-Qaeda doing military drills in the desert or them taunting America in a foreign language. They seemed so distant and removed from our reality. Why? Because only if we tuned on the news that day would we see these videos and they had no real bearing on our lives. They were speaking in a language we did not understand, they dressed differently and were in a place none of us would probably ever visit. Yes, a war on terror was being fought, but very far away from our reality.
Al-Qaeda used the Internet to recruit young, single men with little to no education or military experience as fighters. They used pop culture themes to seduce new recruits through Jihad-inspired video games and rap music videos with lyrics sympathetic to their cause. But you had to find these sites and propaganda online. They were not mainstream. Once an interested recruit found this al-Qaeda propaganda and expressed interest, they were then guided to chat rooms and social media where they could interact and be radicalized with other like-minded individuals. From the chat rooms and social media, these recruits were urged to travel to Iraq to train with al-Qaeda. The ultimate goal being for them to take action to prove their new belief.
THE PRESENT – ISIS has flipped the script
ISIS specifically uses social media to imply that they are like us and here with us. They tweet like we do. They speak in English like we do. They play Call of Duty like we do. They even posted a picture of the ISIS flag in front of the White House. Showing us that they are not across the world fighting in a desert. They walk among us. ISIS uses social media to bring terror directly into our homes.
But that has all changed now. They are not only recruiting young men but they are also luring young women into the fold to have babies and grow the Islamic state. We know thousands of men and women from the United States, Britain and Australia who have “disappeared” and joined ISIS. But ISIS is letting its recruits know that they can still show their duty without getting on a plane or leaving their country. There are reports of ISIS terror cells outside of El Paso, TX. Also, ISIS is calling for followers to carry out lone attacks on popular tourist spots in the US such as Times Square in New York City.
Through social media, ISIS has taken out that “middle man” or the underground aspect of it so to speak and can access anyone directly. Or anyone can access them right from their smart phone or tablet device that they’re holding in their hand. Anyone can look, troll and watch in horror or amazement at the videos and messages they send out to the world daily. You just get the feeling that this information is all too easy for a troubled person to access and carry out another Sandy Hook school shooting or Boston marathon bombing in the name of ISIS.
THERE ARE 3 STEPS TO USING TWITTER TO BUILD YOUR BRAND – ALL OF WHICH ISIS IS DOING EXPERTLY
First, know your audience. Understand who you are talking to, how they communicate and mirror that in your language to them. ISIS is undeniably trying to scare, intimidate and recruit westerners. We know that because they now create splashy, propaganda videos in English showing them passing out candy and going through military exercises. All of their videos showing beheadings and taunting America are in English. There is no doubt that they are taking to us. More specifically, ISIS is talking to you.
Step two is to stay on brand, meaning know your mission and only tweet about those things. ISIS is brilliant in that respect as they only tweet about 4 distinct things to spread their message. ISIS tweets propaganda in order to recruit fighters and asks their followers to support them financially. ISIS also threaten and intimidate their enemies by posting horrific images and videos of beheadings, crucifixions and other violence.
The last step is to tweet or post consistently because you cannot build a following if you do not consistently put your message out there. ISIS tweets and posts regularly, plus show their mastery of Twitter by using hashtags. ISIS sends out tweets using popular hashtags like #WorldCup2014 so their tweets can be viewed by a world audience. Also, ISIS has its activists tweet out thousands of tweets using a specific hashtag on certain days at certain times so that the hashtag – and subsequently ISIS – can trend on Twitter and become a top trending Twitter topic for that day. Thus, gaining even more attention. ISIS has a clear social media plan and it’s working.
In the wake of the spread of ISIS, America has conducted air strikes and is seeking help from other nations to join the fight against this evil. Twitter has also deleted some accounts of suspected terrorists. But ISIS is still tweeting, posting and spreading hate every day with 140 characters or less.
My question to you is, the Internet is a free place. Do you feel that is right that ISIS is able to freely use Twitter and Facebook to spread their message and recruit? Leave your reply in the comment section below.