Back during the height of the protests in Egypt, Fast Company wrote about how social media was accelerating the pace of revolution. Now it looks like activists in Egypt are turning to social media to accelerate the next phase of revolution: the return to normalcy.
A video was posted to YouTube Thursday called “From Egypt with Love,” which seems to be trying to encourage tourists, and possibly business people as well, to look at the Middle East with fresh eyes.
Countries going through political turbulence frequently see their tourism numbers dip, for months, or even years, after the unrest has dissipated. (Just ask Egypt’s neighbor, Israel.) For a country like Egypt that is heavily dependent on tourism, such a dip can have profound effects, none of which are likely to make the difficult path forward any easier.
“From Egypt with Love” seems to be trying to quickly rebrand the country, from a potentially dangerous destination, to a place full of warm and gentle people you’d definitely want to go visit. Set against low-key but inspiring guitar music that could easily have been used in an AT&T ad, the video features smiling, everyday Egyptians simply reciting the phrase “From Egypt with love” in a slew of languages, including English and Russian, French, Greek, Italian, and Japanese.
The video links to a Facebook page, “I AM Egypt,” which in turn links to a site built on WordPress, also called “I AM Egypt.” The site says I AM Egypt is “a movement for self-expression and a solidarity statement with a nation who showed the courage to stand for freedom and reform in hopes of attaining civil democracy and prosperity.” It is for “all who wants [sic] to be part of the rebirth and reform of the new Egypt through contributing & sharing their ideas.”
It’s not clear who’s behind this campaign, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Google executive Wael Ghonim had a hand in them (not least because he is promoting it; he tweeted out a link to the video earlier Thursday). But the use of social media for branding purposes is right up his alley.
In a New York Times article published Sunday on the digital activism that led to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Ghonim, a 31-year-old marketing executive, described how he lent his business savvy to an informal network of Eyptian activists. “I worked in marketing, and I knew that if you build a brand you can get people to trust the brand,” he told the Times.
Ghonim related how he set up a page on Facebook called “We Are All Khalid Said,” referring to a young Egyptian beaten to death by police. The page was used to post reports about police violence and to encourage fans and visitors to start thinking about Egypt as “their” country. The page attracted hundreds of thousands of followers, and was eventually used to mobilize support for the January 25 protests that kicked of the Egyptian uprising.
We reached out to Ghonim, and we’ll update this post if we hear back from him.
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E.B. Boyd is FastCompany.com’s Silicon Valley reporter. Email.