The Army's Social Media Industrial Complex

Considering the heavy female demographic happening on Pinterest, we were surprised to find the U.S. Army had a well-stocked profile, until we checked out the rest of their online goings-on

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Considering the heavy female demographic happening on Pinterest, we were surprised to find the U.S. Army had a well-stocked profile, until we checked out the rest of their online goings-on. The Army is all up on the Internet. And, in a very active way -- it doesn't just have social media profiles to have its hand in the future. It has robust profiles on various sites, ranging from the big social media players like Twitter to newbs like Pinterest, each appropriately using the platform as a PR tool. It's really quite impressive for such an established, bureaucratic organization that one would assume would stink at the Web.

All of the Army's many social media profiles are well run. And it has many. It's on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Google+, VimeoSlideshare and now Pinterest. There is also an Army Live blog. (Not to be confused with an Army liveblog.) Each profile posts different content, each appropriate for the venue. Twitter and Facebook, for example, are news heavy. Flickr and Google+ are photo driven. YouTube and Vimeo post videos, of course. And, Pinterest has pretty and cute patriotic and Army-themed things, like this entire pinboard of desserts and pastries. For the Army wife demographic, possibly?

We've reached out to the Army's Public affairs office to get more insight into their social media strategy and how it works. But for now, we'll just say that we're impressed with what they pull off.

The Army knows what's up content wise, in a PR sort of way, at least. Most of the stuff is more like promotional material than anything else, the badass Army image, like this wounded soldier video or these heroic soldier photos on Flickr. The Army even understands social media's potential to hurt its own cause. Since it uses it as a PR tool, rather than a news or information portal, the wrong kind of messages can make it look bad. Hence the social media guide it put out last summer.

The understanding goes deeper than "what to post." The Army also gets Internet pace, updating these profiles on just the right type of regular basis, tweeting a couple of times every hour, or Facebooking a handful of times a day. None of the profiles go dormant for too long. Our own social media editor, Jared Keller, tells us that this type of timing is strategic, as to neither bombard or disappoint followers. To maintain all of these unique platforms with the right kind of content as well as the Army does must take ... an army. (Sorry, had to.)

All of this curation has paid off, too. The U.S. Army has followers aplenty: 124,005 on Twitter, 1,184,681 likes on Facebook, 686 Google+ circlers, 2,567 YouTube subscribers, and 259 Pinterest followers. Yet, we're still wondering how exactly the Army got so good at something usually 24 year old Internerds handle. Perhaps they've got drones on it? (Ok, ok, we're done.)

It looks like part of it has to do with utilizing a thorough research department. Over at its Slideshare page, we discovered this presentation about Pinterest posted last week, timed just as the site entered the Internet zeitgeist. It's a pretty standard document, much like you would probably find in a lot of corporate offices when the bosses wanted to know what the latest online fad is. It's full of statistics and information about the social network of the moment, has a pretty good explanation of the site's purpose. And just as in many office environments, the document is safely vague: "Currently, only a handful of military organizations are using Pinterest. Like many other platforms, as Pinterest grows in popularity, Army organizations will likely experiment with the platform to determine how they can use it as part of a unique social media program." It also warns, "As with all social media platforms, it's important to have a plan before you start promoting your organization's presence on a new social media platform like Pinterest."

Social Media Roundup - Introduction to Pinterest

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.