The military is commonly perceived as impersonal, intimidating and even inhuman. Modern militaries are increasingly using social media to win over the hearts and minds of the citizens they serve and, in the process, highlight strategies that smart brands can adopt to make more personal connections with consumers.
In honor of Veteran’s Day, we explored some of the remarkable ways militaries use social media to communicate their values, share their soldiers’ achievements and share their work. What we can’t help but notice is that armed services that use social media effectively tend to also have a high level of engagement with their followers, something brands also strive for. Without further delay, here are 3 powerful brand marketing lessons from the military.
Honor their service
Being in the military has serious consequences for conscripts and volunteers, alike. These individuals risk their lives to protect their country and their fellow citizens citizens. While this is a noble move on the behalf of soldiers; to protect and support, they too, need support during the time of their service. That’s where social media has come into play. Lately, as social media evolves and poses as an aid to help promote the activities of an army, as well as to inform the public about their contributions aside from war-related duties.
Insights on an army’s social media page into how they overcome challenges as their operational environment changes can be exciting but a tragic reality is that, in the army, soldiers are injured or killed. Some of the injuries are severe. Regardless of the severity, however, the US army posts photos of injured soldiers, inviting good thoughts and prayers for their recovery and wellbeing. For example, this photo’s caption says:
Humanize your team
It can be easy to forget that soldiers are often people just like you and me. They have hopes, dreams, families and make deep personal sacrifices. A great way to express a softer side of soldiers, who are often portrayed and rock-solid and tough, is to include their personal stories. There are many different ways that armies do this. Here is another example; a soldier reunited with his family after a long deployment to Iraq:
You may go on frequent business trips for a couple days at a time. Imagine not being around for months at a time and missing all those family moments. Updates like these highlight one of the costs of military service for military families.
The US army also tends to put up photos of soldiers in training, which takes place all over the world. Here, a soldier who was assigned to 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain “Patriots”, conducts Pre-Ranger Combat Water Survival training at Fort Polk, Louisiana. By demonstrating challenges that soldiers experience regularly, and being open about these challenges, it creates a humbling feeling that is expressed through their posts. Army life is not a cakewalk, and by allowing their audience into aspects of their day-to-day lives, soldiers exude a certain sense of vulnerability and humility to whomever is following them on social media.
It is interesting that just as uniformity and conformity are important values in the military, having a human face is crucial to encourage public support for what is often challenging and even unpleasant work.
Showcase your community outreach
In addition to highlighting challenges and achievements of individual soldiers, many military units are often deployed to provide humanitarian relief and assist with disaster recovery efforts across the globe. For example, the Israeli Defense Forces, otherwise known as the IDF use Facebook frequently to show the world what they are doing, beyond the context of war. The IDF recently sent a team to Nepal to assist with that country’s relief efforts following the devastating earthquakes that struck in April of 2015.
Many brands make important contributions to their local communities and these efforts don’t always receive as much attention as their commercial endeavors. Post photos on your social media channels of members of your team helping out and being of service to local communities. It is great for morale and helps consumers see your brand as more than some monolithic thing and, instead, as a team of dynamic and passionate individuals.
For example, start a food drive right at work, and photograph the event. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it’s a great way to give back, and also show your audience that you are also contributing to something that doesn’t immediately serve your company’s business interests. You also show your community that you and your team are part of it and have a deep interest in your collective wellbeing.
Here are some key things to consider doing in order to emulate how militaries around the world are maximizing their use of social media:
- Insight – provide insight regarding the challenges your company has faced, revealing a layer of vulnerability that generally initiates engagement. Maybe an employee’s illness caused some craziness in the office, and interrupted workflow. Own the challenge, and describe to your users how you managed to stay afloat.
- Humanize your employees – Have your employees share personal stories that bring meaning to the company. Where did they start out professionally? What are their aspirations? How will your company help them achieve those aspirations? The more raw and human your company appears, the more appealing it will become to the public.
- Share your community outreach activities – Give back to your community by setting up some sort of fundraiser or campaign for those who are less fortunate. If a natural disaster occurs and you contribute to its relief, even in the smallest way, that’s still amazing. Heck, even if your company does something small, record it and post in on your social media channels like soldiers do in order to show that you’re being of service in some fashion.
Brands can learn from how militaries use social media to engage with citizens. At a high level your mission, as a marketer, is similar to your social media savvy armed services and so could your strategies be.