US Army Light Artillery

A military metaphor for grasping Social Media.

Recently I’ve been discussing the importance and far-reaching impact of ‘social’ for military organisations. There are many opportunities and scenarios where understanding and effective deployment of social media skills and the reach of social networks can have a significant and lasting effect.

The use of social media and social techniques for communicating and influencing diverse audiences is well recognised in the commercial domain and in recent years within the political domains; we have also seen social media used both overtly and more subtly in defence related activities by insurgent groups and state powers alike.

One of the first steps in building competence in ‘social’ is to have a common and clear understanding of how it all works and fits together.

During my conversations with military folk, I found the following metaphor seemed to resonate quickly and helped form the basis for discussing strategy and tactics for social media communications and influence building.

If we consider influencing our target audience as territory to be gained; the different digital and social channels are our deployable platforms and weapon systems and the ammunition required is our content and just as you have different types of ammo you have different types of content. Finally, of course, you need trained personnel to be able to deploy and utilise the platforms effectively.

Carrying this metaphor forward there is clearly a need for training in using the different platforms, but importantly there is a need to have strong supply lines to produce and deliver the ammunition which in this case is well produced, engaging content; just having snappy messages and repeatedly pushing this out on Facebook or Twitter just won’t cut it; it’s like a guerrilla uprising, they may make some noise and have some limited success, but ultimately, a well-trained, resourced and disciplined professional army will win.

The last element I highlight in this military metaphor, is that of ‘Intelligence’ — prior intelligence on why, who, where and when to utilise the (social) platforms; careful monitoring of impact in terms of engagement and amplification during the (campaign) deployment and afterwards to report on effectiveness and what adjustments should be made.

  • Different Social Media channels == Different Weapon Platforms
  • Content == Matched Ammunition
  • Content creation == supply lines and support
  • Analytics == Intelligence
  • Audience == Territory

Once we break down our deployable assets into different platforms and content that needs to be repurposed and matched to different channels then we can plan strategically. Starting with ‘Why’; we develop core messages that lie at the heart of our content production and then create a timetable or content calendar to deliver this content over time and we measure our progress.

Another aspect which I’ll discuss in a future post is the need to develop networks and the requirement to invest time building these networks.