Loose Lips Sink Ships; The Military Approach To Social Media
May 24, 2011
As Memorial Day is upon us, it’s a day set aside to honor those who have served and continue to serve our nation. The security of our servicemen and women has always been of utmost importance.
In 1942, as millions volunteered or were drafted for military duty, the U.S. Government adopted a policy which laid out guidelines to teach soldiers and their families the dangers of how casual conversation could be leaked to the enemy during World War II. Most of these soldiers did not know how to conduct themselves to stop unintended information getting to the enemy. So to solve that, the government established rules of conduct.
The government asked all soldiers and their families and friends to think before they spoke because too much information that gets out there has caused lost battles. The “Loose Lips Sink Ships” policy has a new relevance today where those who are currently serving are using social networking to stay in touch with their loved ones. This is the same kind of warning that now applies to the social channels in use today.
The U.S. military has updated its simple but powerful “Be Sensible, Use Your Head” policies with an even more forward approach. The Department of Defense recognizes that Internet activities, including social networks, are effective tools for operating and collaborating across organizations and with the public. The DOD also realizes that “success with social networking and social media will depend upon every service member, civilian employee, family member, friend and contractor using these tools wisely."
As you’ll see below, many of the guidelines set forth in the U.S. Army Social Media Handbook speak to the core of higher level thinking in regards to today’s consumer behavior and cultural trends.
Here are some highlights:
Develop A Strategy:
“Once the direction of an organization is established, it’s then possible to develop a social media communication strategy.”
“Using analytics can help a unit demonstrate the usefulness of a social media platform and, even highlight the success of a specific social media campaign.”
Enforce Posting Policy and Monitor Comments:
“Review wall posts frequently. Social media doesn’t take a break just because it’s the weekend.”
Engage The Audience:
“It’s important to use social media to facilitate the conversation, engage the population and keep people interested in what’s being discussed.”
Listen To The Audience:
“Watching the comments on Facebook or a blog help you get a feel for what the online community wants to hear about”
“It’s important to spend time responding. The online community will value this interaction.”
Post Content To Social Media Platforms Often:
“A static social media presence is ineffective.”
Build A Community:
“A large following doesn’t happen overnight so relax and execute the social media strategy.”
You Can’t Force Trust:
“It is important to have a regularly updated channel of communication open so they not only know where to find you online but know that they can trust the information they get.”
Along with the many guidelines in social media behavior, the U.S. military also includes apps in their strategy and soon will launch its version of an app store called Army Marketplace, where soldiers can download Army-relevant software to their work computers.
It’ll start off featuring the few dozen applications that soldiers created last year during the “Apps for the Army” contest. The ideas ranged from workout guides to digitized manuals for standard Army tasks. So far, there are 17 apps for Android phones and another 16 for iPhones. The Army Marketplace will do more than sell these apps. This will help generate ideas for new ones, too.
Here is a complete guide to the “Official Pages of The Department of Defense”. You can find the social media directory list there.
Many agree that this is forward thinking by the DOD. It would be easy to prohibit the use of social networking due to the challenges that comes from open dialogue and location-based settings. However, the military's shift towards strategically employing new media to advance the Armed Forces’ public affairs goals and to "compete in an evolving global messaging space" is something all companies should take note of. There are lessons here for all of us managing brands in this challenging new environment.
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