The Army and social media. Two aspects of our culture that don’t quite seem to go together, but apparently they do. Ragan outlines four lessons in social media marketing that come from our very own armed service, noting the goals the Army is after in its online efforts along with the things other marketers can learn from what the Army is doing so far.
The four areas covered by Ragan include a large roster of Army bloggers, the ability for blogging to convey the human side of a soldier’s story, the use of multimedia sharing to help tell that story, and leveraging employees (soldiers, in the case of the Army) to help out on the social media front.
You’ll note that these cover the basics of what is recommended for corporate bloggers, reiterating the concepts businesses have figured and applied to their own social media strategy. It just catches people off guard when they see such initiatives from the Army.
This is perhaps due to the perception that the Army and other areas of government-run organizations seem to be further removed from social media. Open communication, remote interaction with shared media and a sense of public living are all aspects of social networking that have become social norms in this day and age. For security purposes it’s understandable that an organization such as the Army would be wary of too much open-communication.
The Army, however, is looking to change this perception. Chalk it up to lower recruiting numbers or the fear of an irreversible sentiment about America’s current need for soldiers, but the Army is looking for ways in which to utilize social media for their own purposes. Recruiting is in fact one of those purposes.
In using social media for recruiting purposes, the Army is able to carry on conversations about the armed services without having to physically seek out people. Used in conjunction with traditional recruiting methods, social media serves as a digital forum where potential recruits can ask questions and receive quick answers. Moving past the stigma of the Army recruiter may be an important initiative for the Army as it seeks to retain higher recruiting numbers.
The other benefit of social media marketing, as far as the Army may be concerned, is its perceived message and its branding. This is a huge objective for many companies that turn to online networks for better communication with the public, even as social media appears to give consumers more control over a brand’s image. This is slowly shifting as brands find more ways in which to incorporate their own initiatives with online media marketing, using charm and acceptance of the changing times as a way to wiggle back into the consumer’s good graces.
And it seems to be working. For centuries military stories have been told to glorify battlefields, incur the ethos of a nation and shift our opinions of other countries in one way or another. Social media’s global reach means that information is far more accessible to a wider range of people, meaning our own military needs to be in the trenches of social networks as well.
Froom books to movies, mass media distribution of war stories has encapsulated a lasting image of the armed forces for any nation, and social media has become the latest method of disseminating information about the Army. After decided efforts to limit or ban the use of social media for soldiers overseas, the Army is now taking a more structured approach to the way in which its soldiers utilize social media.
One aspect of this initiative caught my eye: the use of Army employees to take on the responsibility of promoting their company through the web. This is a concept that will grow in the coming years, as a shared effort towards brand recognition will ultimately trickle down to every employee within a company.
Instead of trying to regulate the usage of an individual’s personal social networking life, the encouragement of that social media can have a better effect if used in a mutually beneficial manner. Having already used this tactic with the much larger consumer base, companies are beginning to apply this method to their own employees. And I think that’s a smart move.