The Facebook forum, "I Support the Israel Defense Forces In Preventing Terror Attacks From Gaza"--created about three hours after the first strikes were made in Gaza--explains Israel's position to the world, Leyden said. "The stickiness makes it a medium that lets people feel, rather than remain passive," he said. "You can put messages in MySpace or Facebook, but it goes nowhere until you drive the content through search engines like Google News. Now you're reaching 60 million people instantly."
The combination of social media and SEO creates the "most powerful voice" to which most people are completely oblivious, Leyden said. Although efforts are still somewhat disorganized, Leyden said he has been approached by the U.S. State Department to educate government officials on how to reach wide audiences with SEO and social media, which he refers to as "Web 2.0."
Crossing international boundaries in a world where the Internet has become a tool to reach people globally also requires marketers to remain sensitive to other cultures and how people respond to campaigns.
For marketers, the key benefit of social media marketing is connecting with as many people as possible, which is Leyden's approach. Citing a survey from Marketing Executives Networking Group, research firm eMarketer said that 85.4% of survey participants noted customer engagement as the main benefit of social media marketing, followed by direct customer communications, at 65%; speedy feedback/ results, at 59.9%; and learning customer preferences, at 59.1%. Brand-building and reach fell much lower on the list, at 48.2% and 37.2% of respondents, respectively.
Leyden, which owns the Israel News Agency, said his Facebook page pledges support for brave men and women in the Israel Defense Forces who by air, water and ground protect Israel's democracy and sovereign borders. The site's friend count quickly climbed from 3,232 members on Dec. 28 at 9 P.M. EST to nearly 17,000 members on midday on Dec. 30. A link to a video on Google's YouTube also provides insight as to why the Israel Defense Forces confront Islamic terrorists in Gaza.
It's not "hasbara," which means "to explain or PR spin," Leyden said. "It's about using social media and SEO to get the facts out. Israel lacks professional manpower and the budget. We put the money into weapons to defend ourselves, but public opinion has an influence on many lives."