If the CIA can be good at Twitter, why can’t your company?

Posted in: Creative, Online strategy, Social Politics, Social PR, Storytelling, Twitter, writing

On: November 10, 2014


For many companies, engaging on social media is an awkward process filled with banal, soulless content cautiously offered. To do otherwise and take the perceived risk of showing a personality, they lament, would be “unprofessional.”

And then they wonder why social media isn’t working for them.

There is a surprising example of a serious organization doing social media well that should serve as an inspiration to the many businesses that confuse boring with professional.

It’s the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

You know the CIA – the legendary intelligence service that helped overthrow inconvenient governments in Latin America, tried to kill Castro (and maybe, some say darkly, killed Kennedy), and a lot of other spying and subterfuge that has stayed in the shadows. You might expect a secretive organization like the CIA to avoid social media.

Nope. Not only is the CIA on Twitter, it turns out they are really good at it too.

Their first tweet in June of this year set the tone:

It garnered 300,000 retweets and nearly 200,000 favorites. That’s Kardashian-esque levels of engagement. The CIA approach was surprising, self-referential and self-deprecating.  Not what you expect from a government agency – let alone a spy agency.

And compare that with the laughably inept Twitter effort of Industry Canada, which requires a 12-step, multi-week process to produce a single boring tweet. Yawn.

The CIA isn’t afraid to reach out to its audience, even when they would be ripe for hashtag highjack like the NYPD experienced.  They even joked about not knowing the whereabouts of Tupac Shakur, hip hop’s Elvis who some fans believe, like the late (?) king, is still alive and in hiding.

And then just last week, they used Twitter to share the true history of the Iranian hostage affair as portrayed in the move “Argo,” which took some creative liberties with the facts, and, it must be said, underplayed the role of Canadian diplomats. The CIA’s “real versus reel” Tweets fact-checked the movie, offering an interesting perspective on the anniversary of the event.

There’s a lesson here. A brand – even one in a serious space – can demonstrate a personality and leverage pop-culture to effectively engage with its audience, and maybe drop a little learning in the process.

So if the CIA can make Twitter work, what’s holding your brand back?



If the CIA can be good at Twitter, why can't your company?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *