Last week a major conflict erupted in the Middle East between Palestine and Israel. The fighting involved airstrikes from the Israelis and rocket fire from the Palestinians. A ceasefire was recently brokered, bringing the conflict to an end. Both sides took the battle to the web, promoting their arguments for going to war, as well — Twitter and the blogosphere are alight with discussion surrounding the conflict. What has been controversial from a marketing perspective is the Israeli Defense Force’s (IDF) digital communications strategy during the campaign. The IDF blog, as reported in TIME, has gamified their blog with a ranking system of badges that rewards users for sharing blog content and return visits to the site.
All over the web, journalists, media experts, and bloggers have condemned this marketing attempt for glorifying warfare. Regardless of what people think of the conflict, the Israeli social media campaign, and its gamification elements, focused people on their cause and garnered much support for it. However this success maybe limited since it was a short-term, included a plethora of ethically-questionable warfare driven content and, the longer-term effects of the campaign will likely have negative conotations for the organization’s (and country’s) international identity.
Ethical Questions and Possible Violations of Facebook and Twitter’s ToS
Named IDF Ranks, the game rewards readers for sharing content, returning to the website, liking posts, and commenting. According to an overview from the IDF Blog, it is an “interactive game, directly implemented into all of the IDF’s social platforms allowing YOU to be a virtual part of the IDF. Every action you take — reading, commenting, liking, sharing or even just visiting — will earn you points and help you climb the ladder of IDF Ranks. Specific actions will win you beautiful badges, and one day you might even become the Chief of Staff of IDF Ranks.”
By that description, IDF Ranks sounds similar to most gamified content. It has a ranking system where players progress and are rewarded by participation in, and sharing of all blog content. Similar examples include the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 trophy systems, or social platform gaming.
Because of the recent conflict, the gamification has raised questions on the ethics surrounding it. Venturebeat writer John Koetsier condemned the IDF for “glorifying warfare.” He writes, “You shouldn’t lose your fundamental respect for human life, even in the midst of war, and terror, and death, and destruction. This is not fun. It is not a game. People are dying. This is not Xbox, this is real life. War is not a game.”
In response to the widespread criticism the IDF told ReadWrite that the game was created prior to conflict in an effort to “create a interactive community to encourage social interaction” around the IDF blog. “We embarked on the operation for serious reasons,” they said, “Israeli civilians have been the target of rocket fire for over a decade – and we continue to see it with the utmost seriousness.”
Some have also questioned as to whether the IDF’s social media coverage of the conflict has violated Facebook and Twitter’s terms of service (TOS). This is because promotion of violence and warfare generally goes against both website’s ToS. An analysis from the Atlantic reports that both the sides are not violating Twitter’s ToS, but maybe contravening Facebook’s.
Gamified Content during Warfare
The overall campaign has been successful in its attempts to drive discussion and highlight Israel’s reasons for its actions against Palestine. It worked, but the world may now think less favorably of the Israelis’ case for defense.
In its essence, the campaign was global promotion of government communication during a conflict. Promoting a organization’s cause during warfare is less than likely to be received desirably by the international community. As mentioned, this also strays into an area where the marketing may sometimes be in violation of Facebook and Twitter’s ToS. Violating these can also have accounts closed.
Lessons for Content Marketers: Analyze The Core Messaging in a Global Context
Gamification is an often unexplored area of content marketing; however, it can lead to an increase in ROI, user engagement, and brand promotion. Unfortunately it is a conflict that has highlighted this in this instance.
The IDF’s reputation nationally garnered supporters, but internationally it was condemned. The world generally doesn’t take kindly to warfare content no matter what the messaging. These factors maybe detrimental to promotion of future Israeli government content in the long run.
Photosource: Wikimedia Commons