Yes, the U.S. Army is still dealing with the tragic shooting that occurred on Nov. 5 at Fort Hood and the public relations ramifications of that event. However, what they’ve been doing on the social media front when it comes to recruiting and opening up real, honest conversations with potential soldiers is nothing short of amazing.
Seems a little odd, doesn’t it? I mean what lessons could your brand possibly learn from one of the most hierarachal, conservative organizations in the world? As it turns out, more than you might think.
The U.S. Army recently started using social media tools to tell its story to and engage recruits and parents. So far, they’ve seen tremendous momentum.
Want to talk numbers? To date, the U.S. Army has enlisted 61 bloggers (most, real-life soldiers). And, that list is growing every week. Hundreds of posts and comments. And a growing readership (sorry, the Army wouldn’t release exact figures).
There’s also a softer side to this work that can’t quite be measured yet. Think about it. If you’re considering enlisting in the U.S. Army, you now have an opportunity to listen to, ask questions and engage in an authentic, unfiltered conversation about what life is really like in the Army with soldiers who are living and breathing it every single day.
No other military branch is doing anything like this.
In fact, wrap your head around this. How many corporate organizations are doing what the Army’s doing? Aren’t a large portion or companies still blocking sites like Facebook and Twitter? Meanwhile, the U.S. Army is actually encouraging “employees” (soldiers) to talk about their unique experiences working for their “employer” (US Army). The good AND the bad. That’s actually pretty mind-blowing if you stop and think about it for a minute.
If you’re an Army recruiter you have to be thrilled with this work, too. In the former world, prospective soldiers would have had to actually visit a U.S. Army recruiting office to get a better feel for what they may be getting in to. With these tools in place, those same prospective soldiers can now visit a host of online resources to get a mix of information to help them make a more informed decision (Goarmy.com, the Ask a Soldier forum, blogs posts from real soldiers and videos on YouTube). And, if prospects don’t do this research on their own, recruiters now have a bevy of tools at their disposal that makes it easier to say, “Fine, don’t believe me, listen to what our soldiers have to say about serving in the U.S. Army.” That’s damn powerful stuff if you ask me.
Don’t believe me? Listen to Major Mary Constantino, whom I met at Blog World in October, about how the Army is using their blog, Facebook and YouTube to enhance their recruiting efforts.
Given this background, here are a few lessons your brand can learn from Major Constantino and her Army colleagues:
* Blogging success rests in the power of numbers. If you visit Army Strong Stories, you’ll notice quickly there are multiple authors or posters. They all present multiple perspectives of life in the U.S. Army. What’s more, because there are many different authors, the responsibility for maintaining the blog does not rest with one single person. As you think about starting a blog for your organization, think about roping many different people into the mix. It will decrease the amount of time required from these busy people. And, more importantly, it will help give your customers different insights into your organization.
* Tell the human side of the story. What’s the Army’s mission? According to Wikipedia, it’s “to provide necessary forces and capabilities in support of the National Security and Defense Strategies.” Take a look at the Army’s social properties. I don’t see a lot of that. What I do see are stories about soldiers coming home to their families for a little rest and relaxation. Tales of their presence at community events. And examples of the camaraderie that makes the Army the organization it is today. Sure, they talk about the nuts and bolts of combat and what it means to be a soldier day-in and day-out. But, the human stories are what pull you in. You can do the same for your brand. Resist the temptation to talk about your products, services and their features and benefits. Talk about the human side of your business: How those products and services help make your customer’s lives easier, better, more efficient and more enjoyable. That’s the content that compels.
* Tell your story through photos and video. OK, the Army has a distinct advantage here. They have compelling visuals that help them tell a powerful story. But, I’m guessing your brand does, too. The Army’s blog uses photos liberally to tell the Army story you may not always here. Time with families. Community involvement. Life on the road. Photos can tell those stories in ways words often cannot. So, the next time you’re crafting your brand’s story, think about the visuals that may help you tell it in a completely different–and more visceral–way.
* Empower your employees to tell your story. More than 60 bloggers worldwide with backgrounds ranging from medical to human resources to legal to public affairs have blogged on behalf of the U.S. Army to date to share stories about basic combat training, serving in Iraq and career opportunities. These are real stories from real soldiers–not corporate memos and newsletters. Often your best storytellers are your employees. They know your brand inside and out. Hell, they ARE your brand in many ways. Why not put them in a position to tell the wonderful stories your brand has to tell?