Digital Transformation

Social media agency of the year: Russia

By Tima Ivanovich* | Freelance

November 3, 2017 | 6 min read

Dear Awards Governing Body,

Social Media Agency of the Year: Russia

Social Media Agency of the Year: Russia

It’s with great pride that we submit ourselves for the prestigious honor of “Social Media Agency of the Year”, and we are certain that by the time you finish reading this entry, you will wholeheartedly agree there is no agency more deserving of this award than interns Vlad, Mikail and the entire team here at the Internet Research Agency (IRA — owned by holding company, the Russian Federation).


Our client, The Kremlin, approached us with an interesting, if not daunting, set of challenges. First, we were to sway US public opinion ahead of the 2016 US presidential election. Not in one direction, nor two. They wanted us to create a sense of chaos in the US political ecosystem. Typical clients, wanting everything, amiright?

Second, they wanted us to get Donald Trump, a reality TV star known for his ability to grab ratings, into the White House. Though promising in theory, the standard data showed he didn’t stand a pierogies chance in Serbia of getting elected. Also, we wouldn’t be able to mention him by name, forcing us into Cold War level subversion.

And third, we had to do it all on a budget of ₽11,653,020 (roughly US$200K - fee included), so we knew organic would be an important aspect of our approach. Frankly, we needed the work, and the pitch consultant on the job (Paul Manafort) promised us access to bigger jobs in Venezuela, China and possibly even the motherlode of social gigs - North Korea. It was the big break we’d been waiting for.


We put our proprietary 360-degree listening tool (aka FSB - recently rebranded from KGB) to work and easily penetrated the hearts and minds of those Americans most “open” to new political ideas delivered via social. In fact, Facebook’s lookalike audiences were not even needed!

Data showed that Americans spend 97% of their day scrolling Facebook, Google and Twitter, often from mobile devices (side note: while in the bathroom - where data showed 86% of political decisions are made).

Also, we know from decades of creating propaganda for the Russian proletariat that the best way to generate high engagement rates was with highly inflammatory content that appealed to a person’s deepest thoughts on society. Some would say it’s evil, but we prefer the term ”psychographically relevant”. These two facts formed the foundation of our strategy.


A constant refrain here at IRA HQ was “Keep it Simple, Soviet.” To generate the engagement needed we’d appeal to political, cultural and social leanings via a highly-segmented, nuanced content approach that leveraged key user traits like racism, sexism, cronyism, economic disparity, liberalism/conservatism (writ large), and fidget spinners.


  • 120K hashtag votes (this exceeded Kremlin goals by 120%)
  • 1.7 million social shares of Hillary/Lucifer content
  • 50% CTR on images featuring immigrant activity
  • President Trump
  • Steve Bannon
  • Pussy Hats
  • Sen. Angus King learning difference in clicks and impressions on national American TV
  • Sen. Al Franken berating Facebook over connection b/n “Rubles and campaign ads”

Perhaps the biggest outcome is we’ve ruined social media advertising for all Americans, oops. Sorry guys [throws back vodka]. If you want to target people by employer, salary and the like now you’ll have to scoot on over to LinkedIn. Bring your rubles! It’s pricey over there.

But in all seriousness, do we really need to fill this part out? C’mon. Watching this week’s Senate hearings, one can see the fruits of our labor in full. And if getting Mr. Trump into office isn’t enough, hopefully causing a Congressional shitstorm and leading to the writing of new legislation (thank you, Sens. Klobuchar, Mayer and McCain) will be. If we’d been selling a physical product, our clients would be scrambling to increase production. This was a fire sale, without slashing prices.

If by now you’re not convinced of our abilities, just wait til you see what we’ve got in store for the 2018 mid-terms. We’ve got some amazing plans in place for retargeting on Snapchat.

*This was actually written by Matt Van Hoven, co-founder of Raven Public Relations.

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