Wednesday, December 16, 2009

U.S. Army Leading The Way In Social Media

Posted by Amanda Walsh

In past blog posts, I’ve written about the great strides the United States Army has taken to include social media in its public relations outreach. The Army continues to be a thought leader in blogging and social media despite its conservative reputation.

According to a article by Arik C. Hanson called, “Social media lessons from an unlikely source: the Army,” the military branch has 61 bloggers on board writing about their experiences. Most of the bloggers are soldiers who give firsthand insight into their daily lives. The Army has encouraged them to write about the good as well as the bad.

Blogging and other online forums connect soldiers with people who can ask questions. Now prospective soldiers can connect with those who are already serving and gain insight into their military lifestyle. Social media has become a valuable networking and outreach tool for recruiters who in the past only had the opportunity to meet with prospects face to face in a recruiting center. Now through the ease of the Internet, connections are being made. According to Hanson’s article, some of the Army’s projects include the Web site, Ask a Soldier forum, blog posts from real soldiers and videos on YouTube.

Some helpful points to take away from the Army’s hard work:

1. Power in Numbers.
The various authors and points of view that are being accounted for on the Army’s blog give readers a well-rounded view of experiences that soldiers deal with everyday. Consider featuring various writers on a company blog to show different perspectives. Also, responsibility for writing will not just fall on one employee. The PR Lawyer, for example, features many of Furia Rubel’s employees from different backgrounds and experience levels, each with their own perspective.

2. “Humanize” the story.
Yes, the main purpose of the Army is to support and protect the United States of America, but its bloggers are not writing about just that part of the job. The human stories of homecomings and community functions also keep readers interested and engaged.

The same is true for your company blogs. By only focusing on the company products and services, readers can quickly become disinterested. Instead, spotlight how your organization will work to better the lives of your clients.

3. Visuals, visuals, visuals!
The Army has many impressive photos that facilitate telling their stories. Often times a photo or video can say much more than a blog post or piece of writing could ever do. Hanson notes, “the Army’s blog uses photos liberally to tell the Army story you may not always hear—time with families, community involvement and life on the road.”

For your corporate blog or Web site remember the appeal of a good photo or an interesting news clip. Make use of multimedia and Web sites such as Picasa and YouTube. They can be invaluable tools to tell the story of your company.

To sum up, I think it is interesting how the Army has embraced social media to help bring soldiers closer to their families, share information, answer questions and dispel myths. I have many friends in the Army who are deployed in Afghanistan right now and we manage to keep in touch through Facebook despite the great distance between us.

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