CIA launches Twitter account: Mission impossible?

by PR Coach on June 10, 2014

CIA seal LangleyImagine you work for the Central Intelligence Agency?

Checking your voicemail two months ago via your satellite smartphone, you hear this new assignment:

Agent Smith. Your mission today, should you decide to accept, is to plan and launch our new CIA Twitter account. You will have all the resources you need and we recognize the challenges ahead. You meet with the Director at 10 AM today to discuss your first thoughts about the mission. This message will self-destruct in five seconds, four, three…

What, me panic? We’re trained for this.

17 big challenges for the CIA Twitter account

CIA HQ Langley, VADriving in on the Beltway to Langley HQ, I’m making a list of the 17 biggest challenges I’m facing in managing my new CIA Twitter account. Some are unique to us, while others are the same challenges faced by any individual or company setting up their Twitter account for the first time.

Strategy: Let’s just say this one is going to take the most work. I guess that’s what my meeting at 10 AM is all about. I’ll have to play it by ear today although that is not the best strategy for social media and Twitter.

Profile Description: Hmmm, let’s see. This one may take a little work. How about:

We are the Nation’s first line of defense. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go.

Disclaimer: This one’s easy:

Tweets reflect the opinions of my employers. They are not in any way my own individual opinions.

Which Twitter profile iconProfile Pic: Four picture possibilities come to mind. Of course each will have to be iconic. I’m leaning in favor of the Spy vs Spy figure because it’s the most transparent and apropos isn’t it? What do you think?

Visuals: We all know visuals are the secret to social media engagement. Definitely not going to be a problem. I’ll have my choice from millions of exciting pictures from sources including: satellites, drones, security cameras from Piccadilly to Prague, pics from pinhole cameras taken in the lapels of operatives around the world, photos submitted anonymously by friends and associates in every country, and much more. This will be awesome when we start up our Pinterest and Instagram accounts next month.

Hashtags: We’ll have to create a series of vital hashtags including #unclassified #oversight #ISpy #BourneUltimatum #FOIA #underadvisement #nocomment and more.

Followers: We’ve got hundreds of hundreds of thousands of followers but they’re not quite ready to disclose themselves. If they do, I’ll let The Director know I found the perfect way to track who’s following us, especially those people in Beijing and Moscow.

Following: We’re already following millions if not several millions of people on social media, text message, tablets and computers. But we’ll have to figure out how to continue following Julian Assange, Vladimir Putin, Edward Snowden, and others without tipping them off. My bad. I shouldn’t have mentioned these names.

Mute. The new Twitter feature may come in handy. If we get any critics, we’ll just mute them. It presents another challenge because technically, we shouldn’t be cutting off any potential sources.

RTs: An interesting dilemma. If we RT someone like the Prime Minister of Australia or Britain, does that mean we endorse them? This decision definitely goes to The Director or the Oversight Committee.

CIA Allstar Twitter team?Team:  I have a great opportunity to pull together an all-star Twitter team including Will Smith, Chuck Norris, XXX, Jason Bourne, Angelina Jolie, Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Lucy Liu and Jon Stewart. Our team needs to cover all the bases from security, self-defense, intelligence fieldwork, White House experience and, very important in social media, a sense of humor.

Content: Editorial strategy, taglines, topics, guest posts, frequency and much more. What if Edward Snowden wants to guest tweet?

Engagement:  Another thorny issue. We want to engage but we can only share unclassified material. Lots of work needed on this tactic.

Security:  The list of security challenges is daunting to say the least. From spam, trolls, hacktivists, rednecks and liberals to minorities, majorities and elected representatives. The list of potential problem people is long. This will require the Wisdom of Solomon and POTUS combined.

Spam: We know spam is going to be a huge problem. Fortunately, that one’s easy for us with the computer power we have and the staff to monitor and sort out the wing nuts and critics from the patriots.

Big data: LOL! Not an issue for us. We’re very comfortable dealing with big data. We’ve been doing it for years now. Say no more.

Transparency: Where do I start? This one is really going to be a big headache. It’s clearly our biggest issue ahead. I guess we’ll be able to tweet from content on our already successful website, museum, and Kids’ Zone. Content such as travel hotspots, World Factbook, list of World Leaders, weather updates, traffic congestion in major cities around the world…. This one definitely goes to the team for discussion.

Postscript: CIA Website Launch – Week One

Our social stats are impressive since our June 6th launch.

After two days, we had 211,000 followers. Only four days later (June 10th), we’re already up to 624,000+ followers. We may even surpass Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber!

Our first tweet was a huge success with nearly 300,000 retweets and more than 176,000 favorites: Way to go team Langley! (And thanks to Jon Stewart for writing that first tweet for us though we will neither confirm nor deny that). 1st tweet for CIA new Twitter account On the record, we’re following 25 others on Twitter including our good friends at the DEA, FBI, DARPA, Homeland Security and the State Department. Off the record, I can’t confirm or deny how many others we are following.

Of course we’ve had more than our share of trolls and haters, but we planned for that. And we know where they live.

All in all, the first week for our CIA Twitter account has been quite a ride. The Director is pleased so far and we’re getting high fives all around. I hope we’ll be another dot-gov success story like NASA. Otherwise, I can expect to be posted to Patagonia.

This is Agent Smith signing off and reminding you to follow us, RT and favorite our posts on Twitter.

Guest Post: Special Agent Smith

Visuals: CIA, Google Images