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Corporations and Offensive Social Media Warfare Tactics

As with any organization, corporations cannot afford to merely be defensive in a conflict situation with social media warfare tactics in play. Offensive social media warfare tactics can become important tools for neutralizing or undermining adversaries. Many offensive tactics need to be put into play simultaneously because offensive tactics are targeted toward the opposition in specific situations. Offensive tactics are shown in Table 4.2. These offensive tactics also can be used against corporations and can result in considerable damage to reputation and even disruption of operations.

Offensive social media warfare tactics, like defensive tactics, have long been part of the corporate arsenal, but perhaps under a different name. They are also in the arsenals of corporate adversaries who will not hesitate to use them in full force and prolonged conflicts. The most relevant tactics for offensive or counteroffensive actions are

  • ? Deception is the process of using invalid or false information or pretense to try to convince opponents or other interested parties that a specific position or proposition is true when there is not a factual basis for the position.
  • ? Confusion tactics are processes designed to disorient and deceive opponents or other interested parties regarding what is real and not real. In many ways, it is a classic propaganda method meant to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Table 4.2 Offensive Social Media Tactics in Corporate Environments

Deception: False promises and invalid information.

Confusion: Creating and perpetuating uncertainty.

Dividedness: Separating opponents.

Exposure: Unauthorized release of information.

Trolling: Post opposing messages to existing posts.

Relationship building: Establishing cooperative efforts with likeminded organizations.

Nullify opponents: Efforts to discredit opponents.

Blended threats: Combined activities to accomplish offensive objectives.

  • ? Divisiveness tactics involve instigating hatred and suspicion among opponents, or recruiting interested as well as non-interested individuals into a cause that aligns with the interests of the corporation.
  • ? Exposure tactics most often involve the unauthorized release of information that might embarrass or otherwise jeopardize the owner or creator of the information exposed, in this case, organizations that may oppose a corporation’s actions or positions.
  • ? Trolling is the process of having imposters or neutral parties respond to a social media post by posting responses that oppose the messages of an existing post, which was made by individuals or in the name of organizations that oppose a corporation.
  • ? Nullifying opponents as an offensive tactic is the process of discrediting opponents in the eyes of interested and even non-interested parties. Nullifying efforts can reinforce existing positive relationships and help to attract new relationships.
  • ? Blended threats are combined activities that are designed to accomplish offensive objectives. They might include deception tactics, combined with trolling opponents to help legitimize the deceptive post made by an opposing organization or individual. In a blended offensive situation, multiple social media platforms can be used along with mixed media methods, including texts, photos, or videos. This again, is the modern approach to classic propaganda campaigns.

Many companies, or their owners and high-level executives, have come under fire in social media conflicts over the last several years. Pharmaceutical companies and their executives face unrelenting social media attacks when their price gouging is revealed. Several automakers faced heavy social media attacks for falsifying mileage ratings on their vehicles and when serious safety defects were made public by researchers or regulators.

As social media conflicts intensify, more and more people join in quickly to share their experiences and encourage each other to keep up an attack on a company. Literally overnight, thousands of people can come together in a conflict against a target corporation. As the volume of social media posts increases, broadcast or web media usually picks up the story and might add new information to the conflict and continue to incite people.

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