Initially entitled “Reparlons Jihad”, “Et toi, le Jihad ?” is an initiative run by a French citizen collective that works to counter Islamist propaganda. The initiative’s objectives are to prevent and combat violent jihad, to promote social cohesion and to encourage the development of critical online engagement. Reparlons Jihad (RPJ) was a satirical campaign, developed in partnership with an illustrator and promoted on Facebook over a period of three months, from May to July 2017.
Rather than focusing upon awareness raising and promotion among a broader, passive audience, RPJ defined a very precise audience: those that may be considering or are already even partially convinced by ideas linked to radical Islamism. By defining this specific audience, the campaign aimed to have an impact on an at-risk population, as well as to study the impact at a granular level. The objective was to spark debate and promote critical engagement online among a diverse audience that is interested in these themes or among those in opposition to mainstream thought in France. Each piece of content was composed of a satirical comic and an accompanying caption that was meant to spark discussion. Emphasis was placed on messages that attempted to discredit ISIS or highlight contradictions in ISIS’ narratives. After the comics were posted on Facebook, the comments and discussions that took place on each were moderated by RPJ. These were assessed as part of the evaluation of the campaign, but were also scanned for individuals displaying signs of radicalisation or support for extremism.
RPJ is also active on Instagram.
Challenge: Extremist Islamist groups are using social media to reach and recruit vulnerable young audiences in France.
Goal & Objective: To help prevent and combat violent jihad, Reparlons Jihad worked to encourage the development of critical online engagement amongst a young, at-risk audience in France. To accomplish this, the campaign’s main objective was to spark debate and promote critical engagement online among a diverse audience that is interested in these themes or among those in opposition to mainstream thought in France.
Target Audience: Men and women, aged 16-25, in France, with an interest in sensitive political issues (e.g., war in Syria, terrorism), radical Islamist influencers, and certain humanitarian pages focused on these subjects. Rather than focusing upon awareness raising and promotion among a broader, passive audience, RPJ defined a very precise audience: those that may be considering or are already even partially convinced by ideas linked to radical Islamism.
Message: Emphasis was placed on messages that attempted to discredit ISIS or highlight contradictions in ISIS’ narratives.
Tone: RPJ successfully used satire to soften their message and make their criticisms more approachable.
Content: Each piece of content was composed of a satirical comic and an accompanying caption that was meant to spark discussion
- 94% increase in Facebook page likes over the three months
- 30% increase in engagement (e.g., comments, posts, likes, shares) on the page
- 6,368,441 views of promoted content
- 363,888 people directly engaged (e.g., comments, likes, shares) with promoted content
- 8.5% engagement rate (compared with a Facebook average of 5%)
- Facebook Relevance Score of 9.6/10
In addition to the impact that is directly visible via Facebook analytics, the engagement was largely positive, with 68% of the audience having interacted positively with the content, a favourable sign for the campaign as a whole. This can be confirmed by the messages received via Facebook messenger, 88% of which were positive. The campaign also seems to have played a role in the mobilisation of the audience, as many users contacted the page to flag extremist content.
Negative reactions represented 8% of all comments and reveal a part of the audience that is opposed to the campaign. While they are never pleasant to deal with, negative responses can actually be an indicator of good targeting and can create opportunities for valuable engagements. When speaking to an at-risk audience with content that directly contradicts the ideology they may already be consuming, one should expect that individuals within this audience will challenge the campaign or defend their own ideas. Reaching these individuals at all means the content got to audiences that may need to see it the most and the interactions with them, if handled well, give the campaign a chance to challenge an adherent of the ideology directly. Just remember, in these situations you are not just speaking to one person who is unlikely to change their position, but to everyone following the exchange.
Comments of a conspiratorial nature (7%), while a non-trivial portion of total engagement, decreased over the course of the campaign, likely thanks to the factual yet humoristic tone of the posts.
- Audience: Because of the nature of the campaign’s content and its stated objective, the campaign was highly targeted, prioritising greater engagement with a smaller audience than greater reach with a larger group. By defining this specific audience, the campaign aimed to have an impact on an at-risk population, as well as to study the impact at a granular level. The more targeted a campaign’s audience is, the better it is able to tailor its content and achieve deeper engagement with its audience.
- Content: The campaign’s primary content was single-panel comics with a short caption meant to spark debate. Simple, immediate content (including comics, posters, infographics, images, etc.) are a good way of delivering a message to an audience that does not know or trust the campaign, because it requires far less from the audience to get it. Videos are a popular medium and are great for exploring an issue in depth; however, they take time and require an audience to agree to watch it, which is rare in practice. On average, viewers watch less than a third of a video on Facebook and few bother to turn the sound on, especially if watching on a mobile phone in a public place. Immediate content on the other hand delivers the message at a glance and can actually result in higher rates of engagement, because more of those reached will have actually absorbed the message. Consider how to balance these to increase engagement in your own campaign.
- Promotion: RPJ had good engagement in part because of tight targeting and strategic outreach. When a campaign is working to reach an at-risk audience, popularity can be damaging. ‘Going viral’ may be useful for awareness raising campaigns or those that wish to promote more general social values, but if your campaign hopes to directly address specific ideologies or belief systems with an at-risk audience, keep your targeting narrow and focus on greater engagement with a smaller number.
 Facebook provides this qualitative indicator that allows the measurement of the relevance of content posted by pages. This indicator is based on various factors, such as positive reactions (e.g., likes, clicks, video views, etc.) from those that view the content, as well as negative reactions (e.g., clicking on “I do not want to see this content”)