We already have seen it with the green revolution in Iran a couple of years about after which the term clicktavists was born and we were all tweeting and blogging about the opposition movement while on the ground the manifestations were just attacked by paramilitary and tens of thousands of people were arrested and convicted. The social media helped to get the information out and probably got the movement going for a while but in the end it didn't make any difference because the regime was stronger on the streets and the protestors weren't sure about the strategy and didn't have enough people to be able to continue and resist the permanent brutal attacks.
The second revolution was in Egypt where the media made a huge fuzz about the role of social media and the fact that one of the guys had some function with facebook and that the Egyptians used facebook and twitter to organize the protests and distribute information in real time. All nice and well and very interesting. But it was not that that made the difference. The day Moubarak send in his thugs (on camels) there were fights going on through the night with the army standing aside. Hundreds were wounded many were killed, but in the morning the army decided that it was enough and intervened on the side of the protestors and drove the attackers away. This had nothing to do with social media. It had to do with the number of people on the ground willing to be hurt or die while throwing stones to keep the attackers away from place Tahir.
The Turkish protests proof the same thing. They just didn't have the people to counterbalance the attack by the police forces (with better equipment than the Ukr now) and to continue the demonstrations night after night to create the atmosphere of revolution, unrest and uneasy that would have forced the government to take some actions to calm down the situation.
Euromaiden proofs again that everything that is really important is happening on the ground. THe number of people willing to be hurt or die and the number of people helping them getting the things organized so they don't have to. After the snipers shot so many people it was clear that the protestors would continue to advance and that short of bringing in machine guns on tanks there was little the regime could do to stop them. (which is different from now where in Eastern Ukraine the regime has the necessary forces but can't use them or can't trust them and doesn't have the international support to deal with it)
Now there is one big and important thing to learn - and I have the impression that even if the Euromaidan people have read the analysis they don't yet understand it and so they aren't capable of influencing the real news. Maybe it all has to do with their age, with their enthusiasm to play reporter without ever being accepted as one by real reporters, with their need to be immediately in the stream of developments following them every minute as a film.
The real news I have learned is NOT in the social media. It is in the newspapers on the international press agencies and on TV. THat is the real news and that is where the real influence is. Yeah they will read some blogs and some tweets but for most of their content they will depend on the big agencies and their reporters on the ground (who sometimes don't even want to follow the social media or don't know which ones to follow)
And it is not about the news an sich it is about the framework, the news-setting that Moscow is trying to create and that is being copied without any research, analysis or re-action by the big press agencies, by the (even socalled quality media) media (even in socalled liberal Russian press the military in Eastern Ukr were called militants). You change words, you set up events, you create impressions and you leave out others. All this is done deliberately and some of the propaganda is very subtle while the other is so stupid that a normal person would see through it (but maybe it is not intended for a normal person)
So as long as you don't have a real press official press office that gives international tv stations video with translations in any important language, in which a high official on the record responds immediately to new allegations or declarations elsewhere, as long as you don't have permanent press officer who try to correct the names that are sometimes used for these terrorist and alert the journalists (of which you know what he thinks and what he doesn't know (yet)) to specific bits of information and contacts so he can verify the information or dig a bit deeper into it.
Playing on twitter and facebook is fun, but mediawar is much more professional than just that. And you won't beat specialised mediastrategists with a tweet or a facebook. Oh you may impact a few thousand people for some time but not necessarily the millions who are watching tv news and reading their newspapers. The fact that the opinion polls about Ukraine internationally aren't that bad doesn't mean that you have to do nothing. On the contrary it means that if you would have a real mediawarstrategy you could do even much better and having a real impact on the democracies that have soon to decide to implement real sanctions that will also hurt them, remilitarize their eastern borders with Russia and should their 'reference' again so they would see Russia as an unreliable, militaristic, imperialistic, undiplomatic havebeen superpower that is only dreaming that it could havebeen the new USSR
This is one for the long haul and for countries who are preparing themselves for the new cold war and are looking anxiously to the propaganda war coming out of Putinized Moscow they should invest in the means to fight a very lowlevel warfare immediately, have socialmedia monitoring and actions but they must surely not overinvest in it and put most of the mediawar money in the international mediawarstrategy.
Social media is when you are organizing protests and trying to foster a strategy, mediawarstrategy is when you have won and you are playing with the big media around the world against the mediapuppetmasters of the new Goebels.
This was for me an eye-opener. Socialmedia is less important than bricks and guns on the street and can't correct fast the international bigmediastrategy of a professional propagandateam. It helps but it doesn't change a thing. It must be there but as a support on the ground and for a professional propagandateam. Otherwise you are fighting in the media like you are now fighting on the ground in Eastern Ukraine.
btw I have re-opened some books about propaganda and informationwar