Home U.S. Army Turns to Social Media to Recruit

U.S. Army Turns to Social Media to Recruit

I wouldn’t call the American military “early adopters” but I’m not surprised that they have turned to social media for recruiting, as the New York Times reports.

Back in 2006, when I spoke at a State Department-sponsored conference on social media and democracy, the only group of governmental participants open to social media, and already using it, were the military. They were subscribing to RSS feeds, including search feeds, reading and commenting on blogs and participating on forums. So there is precedence for reaching out on social media sites.

The Army has a well-established history of using television commercials to reach possible recruits. The Times quotes the simply impossibly named Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley on the motivation for the new direction in recruiting.

“We’re working hard to increase our social media. We fully recognize that young people TiVo over commercials or are multitasking on their smartphones when the commercials come on…We have to reach out in forms like we’re discussing to get them to want to know more, to join us in social media and extend the dialog.”

The branding message remains consistent, if not terribly clear to me: “Army Strong.” It plays out across a number of properties, including a website, Army Strong Stories, and a Go Army Facebook page (complete with exclusive X-Men movie footage).

Army Strong Stories is built like a blog, with a column of posts by various Army officers, links and video. There is an iPhone app you can download as well.

The cross-platform messaging includes a dedicated YouTube channel, a Twitter account and even a MySpace page. (Really?)

Like the Army or not, embracing social media is simple common sense for people whose “product” as it were, only sells itself to a small group. The rest need to see themselves in the Army to begin considering it as an option. Given the primacy of personal communications media in the lives of young people, no such appeal would be possible for long without it.

My question, however, is how energetic the recruiters are in engaging on an ongoing way with the users of social media. The PR command I dealt with were very energetic participants. It is uncertain whether the recruiting command is. And that will be, I think, the make-or-break in the long run.

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