Over the years the United States has faced a plethora of threats to national security, and in this day and age social media has become the weapon of choice for terrorist organizations intent on doing harm. And with this new breed of digital terrorism comes a unique set of challenges.
Why social media?
This question has been asked on numerous occasions and the reality is very simple: Social networks allow individuals to post anything they desire with the ability to potentially reach thousands of people almost instantaneously in a targeted fashion. Or if one is lucky posts will go viral, such as the recent Twitter threats aimed at airlines.
When I think back to my days as a social media consultant guiding large organizations, including Fortune 100 companies, it becomes crystal clear that complex social media marketing and PR strategies are really no different than terrorist use of social media. You have a message you wish to get adopted to produce a certain result and your efforts are centered around completing that goal. In this instance it’s not about choosing one credit card or gas station over another, but instead remaining a model citizen versus adopting radical philosophies focused on harming others.
Will this problem go away?
Unfortunately social media threats are here to stay and our research indicates that they will only increase in the future. Since we began researching and tracking social media threats in 2011, each year we’ve seen a sharp increase in credible threats posted on social networks with 2014 producing nearly double the number of threats made in 2013. In the future, social media threats will be inevitable and the question is not so much if they’ll happen, but how to effectively deal with them.
What’s the solution?
The best way to strengthen national security in the face of social media threats is for the United States to be the best brand it can be and use innovative marketing techniques to touch those with a high propensity for radicalization.
The next time you walk into the supermarket to purchase milk, stand there for a second and think to yourself: Of all the brands of milk staring you down, which are you going to choose and why? As a matter of national security, the United States must be the best milk on the shelf if we wish to sway opinions, capture market share, and succeed.