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The Israeli military does social media better than you


Be careful what you tweet. Park Jeong Keun apparently had no idea anything was amiss when he entertained his Twitter followers with satirical sideswipes at North Korea. Park faces a possible prison sentence after being charged with "praising and supporting an enemy of the state" under a law introduced more than six decades ago to protect the new South Korea from communist infiltration.




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The IDF has stepped up its social media efforts since 2010, putting most — if not all — other militaries to shame, with the exception of a few very controversial errors in judgment. The value of social media became apparent to the Israeli military's media wing after it took eight hours for a video of "Free Gaza" flotilla passengers attacking IDF soldiers to progress from camera to internet. By that time, Israel had lost that propaganda war.

A visual operations center inaugurated last year has cut that time down to one hour, IDF Spokesman Capt. Eytan Buchman told GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky, giving the IDF a better chance to get its side of the story out before others.

During the Gaza Conflict in 2012, called “Operation Pillar of Defense” by Israel, the IDF's Twitter feed was itself giant news, announcing military operations before so much as a press conference could be held.


Later, @IDFSpokesperson was first to announce the killing of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari, using this controversial image.


It also requested reinforcement by re-tweet from those outside of Israel.


Another tweet reported the IDF's effort to drop leaflets in Gaza warning citizens to stay clear of likely target zones, and posted a video of the campaign.


During the same conflict, the official IDF blog issued an animated video showing how far a missile launched from Gaza can travel and how many Israelis are threatened in the process. The video helped shore up sympathy around the world.


While mastering its own social media propaganda campaign, it has at times deftly tackled what it sees as propaganda from the otherside as well. The Israeli social media gurus made a blog post in May 2012 titled, "5 Anti-IDF Lies Which Turned Viral."

The same blog includes a system where re-tweeting its content, liking it on Facebook, commenting, or watching a video earns you points toward a military-style "rank," displayed in the corner of the page while you browse. Tech website ReadWriteWeb called it "gamifying" war. 

The blog also posts succint roundups of military activities, often in infographic form, and includes mini-sites like: "Hamas terrorism 101."

Of course, social media is really all about interaction. As the IDF reaches out to the public, the public can reach out to the IDF. During Passover, the Israel Defense Forces Facebook page posted these instructions for sending a holiday message via Twitter to a soldier in the field.


Eager supporters on Facebook could also participate in the 2012 photo of the year competition, either by submitting a photo or "liking" their favorite to vote.

While the IDF has only been on Instagram since September, some of the sepia-toned photos of soldiers posing with puppies or smiling under a filtered sky look like they could be from 1967.

Photo by idfonline

But this is 2013, and everyone knows posting pictures on the Internet is pointless unless you can show off that delicious meal you just ate. So, how does the IDF do in this crucial test of life in the 21st century?

CPL. ZEV MARMORSTEIN/Idfonline/Flickr.

Judging by this photo from the soldiers' first culinary competition, the IDF has social media savvy to spare.