Charting ISIS on social media: A Radian 6 analysis

Erica Sanidad, Iggy Gan
Social media software analyzes terrorist group’s frightening trajectory on social media

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Terror is on a recruitment drive, one that’s cutting a path right through Southeast Asia. Just last month the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, otherwise known as ISIS, garnered the allegiance of senior Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader, Isnilon Hapilon.

His pledge of allegiance is the result of ISIS’ ruthless and targeted online enlistment process involving religion-laced propaganda and a steady stream of their vicious progress throughout Iraq and Syria.

The group, that seemingly emerged out of nowhere, sprang into action in June of this year to take city after city. Though their arrival seems fairly recent, many experts surmise that their roots were sown fairly early on, starting with the tragic attacks on September 11, 2001.

From then on, the terror wars took on a cyclical path with leaders falling only to have others take their place. Now, however, ISIS is taking a novel and strategic approach, one that has propelled them through numerous struggles and grown their numbers by the thousands.

To date, some residents of Davao and isolated parts of Mindanao have also taken up the religious call to arms. The Philippine militant group is just a fraction of the 30,000 to 50,000 individuals, worldwide, who have pledged their support to the terrorist organization. Part of their training is reported to have taken place in the country despite denials from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and their longstanding peace agreement with the Philippine government.

This is only one of the many alarming events surrounding the Sunni jihadist group known for their extreme approach and unparalleled brutality. Their first strike on the Northern Iraqi City of Mosul was the opening salvo of many subsequent attacks on provinces in Iraq and Syria. To date, the group is reported to occupy 35,000 square miles between both countries, estimated to be similar in scope to neighboring country Jordan.

Despite their continued path of destruction and mayhem, the US military has taken a deliberative approach to one of immediate response. Understandably so, since their involvement in the Afghanistan and Iraq war fiascos, advises caution and determination of just cause for war. However there are specialists pushing for more than targeted air strikes. They want a decisive motion to repel a faction that seems to exhibit characteristics that set them apart and make them that much more disturbing.

Though ISIS’ strategic bid to increase their numbers is typical, their approach is not. Massively funded and frighteningly organized, they are rapidly emerging as a worldwide threat. Another thing that distinguishes them from their counterparts is their liberal use of social media as a tool to further their aims. From posting photos of the grisly mass murders of Iraqi troops to execution videos of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, they are getting harder to ignore. Bolstering the campaign to swell their ranks with Islam devotees at a rapid rate, their online presence is a reminder that swift action is needed.

Gripped by Panic 

ISIS SPIKES. Initial US air strikes and public executions of James Foley and Steven Sotloff sparked mentions around the world.

Radian 6 showed a total of 14,787,571 mentions measured, covering the 3-month period associated with the group’s progress throughout Iraq.

The chart also displayed a peak in ISIS mentions on August 9. This date marked authorization of the first United States air strikes on the organization’s strongholds in Mosul. From then on, buzz stayed at above baseline levels exhibiting further peaks during August 21 (520,629), and September 3 (627,753), corresponding to the public release of the execution videos of Foley and Sotloff, respectively.

GLOBAL MENACE. On the social media map, ISIS becomes a genuine menace to global security.


It can be inferred that US response put ISIS on the social media map as a genuine menace to global security. The back-and-forth volley, between a country known for its military might and one of the most radical groups to emerge from the Middle East, continues to play out with the whole world as an audience.

The most responses were observed in the US (10,295,664), followed by the United Kingdom, Canada, India, the Netherlands, and Greece.

While horror, disbelief, and fear permeate worldwide sentiment at 78.7% of mentions, there is a surprising 21.2% that express positive views regarding the conflict outcome.

The hopeful few are hinging on America to launch concurrent air strikes and ground assaults to end the Islamic threat for good.

Philippine mentions stand at 13,366 and the graph displays more noticeable and sustained spikes. Overall, however, the graph mirrors worldwide sentiment showing that we are closely tuned in on ISIS events, as they develop. There is no doubt that the events in Mindanao have had a jarring effect on the country. Graphs show an overwhelming 78.9% negative sentiment compared to 21.1% positive value.

MORE NEGATIVE. ISIS Responses are mostly negative, with the positive responses hinging on the chance of ISIS being stopped.

World Powers Respond

DEFENSE RESPONSES. Graph showing social media reactions to US and UN defense responses. Low UN involvement sees the US getting more social mentions.

Factoring defense responses from the US and world organization UN yielded surprising results. Most on social media are not fans of the conservative response to ISIS. Low UN involvement sees the US capturing a larger chunk of social mentions at 84.1% to 15.9%.

Sentiment toward the latter is largely negative at 88.1% compared to 11.9% positive mentions, pending a concrete military strategy against the terrorist group. Whether or not the world will keep holding its breath for what appears to be an impending show down, remains to be seen.

More and more of our countrymen join ISIS converts, the world over, as they continue to pledge their aid. If this shows anything, it’s that social media is highly effective at disseminating ideas and making them stick.

With a matter this serious, however, the numbers are there to send a message, ISIS is a legitimate threat and it’s time to take action. –


Iggy Gan is an Associate Social Media Consultant at AllFamous Digital. He has a knack for social listening and a passion for writing. Follow him on Twitter @iggypedia. 

Erica Sanidad is a Social Media Specialist for AllFamous Digital. She likes reading and collecting graphic novels and loves to paint during her spare time. Follow her on Linked In and Instagram @ericasanidad.

AllFamous Digital are the Authorized Reseller and Services Partner of Salesforce Marketing Cloud across ASEAN.

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