The CIA Gets Twitter

Posted: Jun 9 2014, 6:45am CDT | by , in News | Technology News

The CIA Gets Twitter
Photo Credit: Forbes

The Central Intelligence Agency gets Twitter and by that I don’t mean it now has a handle on the site and sent out its first tweet on Friday to much acclaim.

Rather, it understands that the best way to defuse the rough and tumble and usually quite vicious back-and-forth that can occur on social media is by humor.

That first CIA tweet for example. It was pretty funny and resulted in quite a number of followers.

“We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.”

Twenty-four hours later it has 448,000 and counting followers.

Not everyone was amused, though, but varying responses to the CIA’s entrance on Twitter show who is best prepared to go mano-a-mano with the agency on social networks.

Amnesty International responded with the following tweet:

“Would be great if @CIA put at least as much effort into following the law as they do into getting Twitter followers:

It’s a serious subject, no doubt, and the organization’s accompany link calls for President Obama to release a Senate report on CIA torture.

But consider Wikileaks’ response to the CIA’s second tweet, which said it was looking forward to sharing unclassified information.

“We look forward to sharing great classified info about you.” It too included links to classified information it has published in the past about the agency.”

Whether or not you agree with and support Wikileaks’ mission and MO–or the CIA’s or Amnesty’s for that matter–the object lesson is this: Wikileaks’ tweet was more likely to get people’s attention because it was funny.

It probably isn’t necessary to cite third party data that suggests humor works on social media but here it is anyway:

A recent Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange report noted that Americans are more likely than the average global citizen to share “funny” content than “important” content.

Of course that is hardly the definitive answer as to what gets retweeted, shared and liked online. Even Ipsos, whose surveys are exhaustive, also noted that the overwhelming reason to retweet cited across all nationalities is to share important information.

Ipsos didn’t address combining the two– important plus funny–but perhaps it should have because joining the two seems to pack the most potent punch of all on social media and leads to a greater response to what marketers reverently refer to as a Call To Action.

Jon Oliver’s Call to Action

Consider Jon Oliver’s spot last week on his HBO show Last Week Tonight about net neutrality and the FCC. In 13 hysterically funny minutes Oliver dissected a complex subject, laying out why it was important.

Then, at the end of the spot Oliver urged viewers to take advantage of the 120-day open commenting period to make their voices heard.

“Good evening, monsters,” he prefaced his plea.

“We need you to get out and, for once in your lives, focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction. Seize your moment my lovely trolls, turn on caps lock, and fly my pretties, fly, fly!”

He wound up sending tens of thousands people to the FCC’s comment site and, according to The Guardian, temporarily crashing its servers.

Watch the clip. And while you are at it, read Amnesty International’s report.

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