Right before the holidays I had the honor of presenting at the All Services Social Media Conference, which was sponsored by The School of Continuing Studies at Georgetown University. The event was part of an ongoing initiative spearheaded by Colonel Kevin Arata to share social media experiences, best practices and approaches.

Lots of smart people and big thinkers presented at the conference. One of the best was Peter Klaus of Fleishman-Hillard’s Digital Media Team. He presented a case study about a program his team put together for the Department of Defense. Called That Guy, it uses an interactive social website as a pivot for a widespread campaign to curtail substance abuse in the military. One device is a set of clever interactive “trading cards’ that help a person self-identify as a specific species of “That Guy”: the comedian guy, the angry guy, the dancing guy, etc. (you know who you are!) The cards list behavior traits, link to video, provide a way to send the card to a friend who fits the description, and so on. The site uses every motivational and teaching device that appeals to its target including humor, games and even a bar calculator for those who are only motivated by their pocket book. Check it out; wonderful program.

Some other sessions were lead by Katie Paine (measurment0, Rohit Bhargava (engagement) and Andrew Krzmarzick of GovLoop.

I led a session about how to plan and build a strategic social marketing plan. The session sparked a lot of audience participation and of course, the interaction and shared learning among the participants was where the real value occurred. Representatives from across our armed services shared challenges that they face in managing and integrating disparate social media programs. I was blown away by the savvy and sophistication of the questions and insights of the group. At ComBlu, we work with a lot of experienced marketing teams of major corporations, and talk to countless others every week. Many of these conversations do not match the social media knowledge or maturation levels displayed by the mostly military audience at this conference.

I should not have been surprised. Look at the social programs the military uses for recruitment, addressing the concerns of parents and other family members, supporting the efforts of military commands, etc.These are just a few examples. There are many command social media sites, user generated communities for parents and families that are not sanctioned but supported by the military, Department of Defense programs, etc.

One observation about all this activity: just like their corporate counterparts, the military social media approach still seems to be one of “experimentation” or what we call “lots of bricks; no building”. Many public and private organizations have yet to create a social strategy mash-up. Our recent research shows that only 20% or so of major corporations exhibit a cohesive social marketing strategy. While this is starting to change, ultimately the full value of social marketing will only be realized when it is integrated and organized in a way that leverages brand value and offers stakeholders a easy, comfortable way to engage.

Kathy Baughman
Kathy Baughman

Kathy’s forte is enterprise content strategy, content marketing and thought leadership. Over the past 40 years, she has worked with both emerging brands and large enterprises in developing content and thought leadership strategies. She has written several research reports, white papers and has been a key contributor to Forbes Publish or Perish Report.