Commanders strategy improving mission effectiveness using social media


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Slides prepared and presented to battalion and brigade commanders on how to effectively use online and social media as a combat multiplier.

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  • Introduction Who I am. Why I’m here talking to you today. Establish credibility.
  • Everything you do as commanders is effects-based. Let’s talk about effects-based communications. What types of effects can one achieve through effective communications? Communicate to internal audiences? To families and civilians? To community leaders? To stakeholders, influencers? Tax payers? Media? Let’s talk about some tools that you can put in your toolbox. For free!
  • Are others doing this? Is it just marketers and celebrities or major brands that are using social media for strategic gain? No. In January of this year, Gen McKinley presented “Tactical Positioning and Deployment in the Social Space” at a Washington DC forum. Leaders on every echelon of the military are realizing the powerful effects that can be achieved using these powerful tools.
  • Prior to social media, readers were left to consume the news and events that was presented to them by mass media. When social media users noticed a perceived lack of coverage of the June 2009 Iranian elections and the protests following them, particularly by CNN, they aired their complaints online and created so much of a stir that CNN picked up on it ad drastically increased the coverage of the events. This is one example of when traditional media places a particular level of interest on an event, yet societal pressures via social media dictate what makes the news. There is no longer a gate keeper in the world of public information or access to mass media.
  • (quietly allow them to read) U.S. forces in Vietnam could enter and leave a village before anyone outside the area was aware of their presence. Today, it is possible that video of the coalition forces activities can be uploaded and shared online prior to the patrol returning to base.
  • We don’t have to imagine the possibilities any more. We have real-world examples. -During a successful firefight against the Jaish al Mahdi (JAM), U.S. Special Forces and Iraqi forces, killed a number of enemy fighters, rescued a hostage, and destroyed a weapons cache. -By the time they returned to their base, someone repositioned the bodies, removed their weapons, and posed them as if they were in prayer. They photographed the bodies in these new poses and uploaded the images onto the internet with a press release explaining that American soldiers killed them while praying in a mosque. -All this in under an hour. The media picked it up and ran with their version of the truth. -The U.S. forces had helmet cam and comcam video. But their policy and inability to adapt, caused a three-day delay in release. -The strategic damage was done. How is the Army changing and adapting to this change of environment?
  • Here are the major online and social media platforms that the U.S. Army is active in. (slide will automatically build on it’s own) Facebook- Twitter- Flickr- Armylive blog- YouTube- website- Why are we doing all this?
  • People want information immediately. They want to be able to share and comment on it. They want it to be transparent, genuine, and authentic and they will call it out if it’s not. People get their information on-the-go now. They don’t wait for the 10 PM news. And they don’t even log on to find news as often – they expect news to find them .
  • When you first heard of the Fort Hood shooting, where did you get your information? Do you remember them saying: “The first report is almost always wrong”, as they came out again and corrected their press statements? A press conference is no longer to release information, it’s to clarify information. Where did a lot of the information come from?
  • (this slide is linked to the CNN video of the Fort Hood social media following) Fort Hood shootings accounted for 20% of news links on Twitter during the week of/following the shootings. Eyewitness accounts posted by people who were at or near the base is what jump-started and dominated the early news. Twitter users in the area were refuting media reports – no chaos, things were calm, etc. News outlets set up twitter lists that aggregated people tweeting about the event and were airing them and reporting them as news. Fort Hood’s website crashed due to the number of people looking for information. Media was looking for credible sources, such as an OFFICIAL Twitter account, or the Army’s OFFICIAL Facebook page. *By the time a crisis happens, it is too late. For people to get information about what is going on via social media, the social media platforms must already exist and must already have a built-up following. Waiting until the event happens, and hoping to disseminate information that way, is too late. So, for example, the Army’s facebook page already have a huge list of followers, as did our twitter page. So, it was easy to disseminate info in quick blasts to our audiences who already existed. Besides a crisis situation, what other ways can social media tools be used to enhance your mission effectiveness?
  • Taking a look at some examples of how some use social media to achieve their desired effects when communicating to their communities. LTG Helmick, for example, uses his page to distribute command information, as well as to find out what people think at Fort Bragg. For example, when he asked what could be improved around Fort Bragg, he got a lot of candid feedback. This was all actionable and he was able to take action while showing his community that he was listening to them. The 2ID used their Flickr photo stream to show Secretary Gate’s visit to Korea, and the Spartan Brigade uses their Twitter page to put out useful information. How can these tools be used operationally?
  • There are also ways to communicate messages and updates from operational theaters. What effects can be achieved this way? -Telling the Army story -dispelling rumors -connecting people with Soldiers, thus bolstering support for troops -pointing followers to more in depth information, such as news articles It can also be used to counter mis-information…
  • Here are a couple of examples of how to distribute positive information and how to refute incorrect information. The flickr account shows how United States Forces-Iraq distribute photos to the world. These photos offer transparency and show people what our forces are doing there. The second example, a video released by CJTF-82 in Afghanistan showing a weapons team engaging insurgents in Paktia province. This video was released to counter incorrect information distributed by the Taliban claiming that Americans had randomly killed innocent civilians. Another example of how these tools can be used is for Family Readiness Groups…
  • Here are a few examples of how FRGs or spouses can use tools to connect and communicate. Recommend your FRSA can manage the unit’s FRG sites. Why is this a good idea? Family members can connect on their time , despite their schedules. They don’t have to go to a 5 PM meeting and skip a cub scout meeting, just to get information about the unit. They can log on and get information on their time, at their convenience . And, if they need to go back and look something up, it is there for their reference . This can be sent to all family members – even Aunty Lil in Guam and Grandma Lu in Philippines, so they can keep up with what their young, single Soldier is up to, and feel connected, even if they cannot come to FRG meetings. Some things that can be put out using social media platforms? Obvious things like Organization day photos, promotion ceremonies, etc. Unit newsletters. Events calendars. Information about community events or school updates, etc. – anything that can be distributed at a FRG meeting. Just remember, OPSEC.
  • Selecting the right platform to optimally achieve your objective is helpful in achieving your desired effects. Let’s talk about how each one is used and what effects can be achieved with each.
  • Now, a practical exercise. Let’s see if we can select the most effective platform for our desired effects.
  • Some things are hard to measure. But measuring the effects of your social media efforts is not!
  • Everyone can see how many fans or followers a page has and how many people “like” a story or comment on a story. Anyone can “like” a post or post a comment about it, if they feel so moved. However, that is not a true indication of it’s reach. Additionally, administrators of fan pages can see analytics that are not visible to users. Admins can see how many impressions – or sets of eyes – have seen the page.
  • Administrators can vary the way they analyze the data – by month or by week, for example.
  • Admins can also see how many interaction the page has had this week, and a summary of “likes,” comments, and wall posts. One can also see how many fans have been active this week and whether that is more or less than last tweek. There is a chart that shows these interactions over time, and those are broke down even further. This chart shows how the gender and age demographics of active users.
  • Further, the demographics of country, city, and language is shown.
  • Now that you know about some of the effects that can be achieved through these platforms, let’s review some of the reasons why you might chose to use them.
  • Avoid the shiny object syndrome. Don’t hop on board just because everyone else is doing it. If you don’t have a person who can manage for you, or if you don’t have enough content to keep folks coming back, then maybe you simply feed your content to your higher headquarters for publishing on their platforms.
  • Now that you are armed with more information about the possible effective uses of social media sites, what type of command climate will you set?
  • Social media sites come and go faster than regulations can be staffed, routed, signed, and disseminated. With the invention of the cellular telephone, did we issue new policy and regulations on how to talk on the cell phone? No, because we were still essentially just talking on the phone. Only the medium changed a bit. Social media is the same way. We do not need to issue new policy and regulations on how to communicate. We already communicate daily. The only thing that is changing is the medium The same basic principals are still in effect. OPSEC and UCMJ. Education, education, education.
  • Registering sites with us helps us to help you. 1. By registering your page at, we can add it to our monthly list of official pages that we submit to Facebook, for example. We have an agreement with Facebook that they will remove any advertising from official pages. This way it does not appear that your unit is endorsing an particular products, and it prevents targeting advertisement to military audiences, which could become problematic. 2. It provides a one-stop-shop for people looking for sites for particular units. 3. It provides us with the contact information so we can get in touch with the page manager if we notice something wrong, or if we need to put out important information to the whole group of administrators.
  • Language should be conversational; fun and engaging. Asking questions is a good way to get people involved and for them to comment. The photo of the day has been a good technique for us. We post the photo to our Flickr account, and then cross promote it on our Facebook and Twitter page. Our photos consistently get a high amount of views a people come back every day to see the photo. On the next slide we will look an example strategy that we used to promote the July 19, 2010 change of Superintendent at the U.S. Military Academy. We synchronized all our social media efforts to feature that as the focus event of the day. After all, the point of using these platforms is so that your messages get out there, and that people have a greater sense of camaraderie and espirit de corps. So, you want to find the right balance that keeps people coming back to the pages, yet gets your message out. Do this by mixing the doses of messages with things they find interesting.
  • Although it might be easy to personally update your status to say that you are craving tacos for lunch, updating ‘official’ social media sites takes a lot more strategy. Here is the example of how the U.S. Army goes about planning social media efforts around a single event. We multiply this format for a week, and even for months to plan our social media strategy to optimize desired effects. Of course, we must keep in mind that social media is timely. And, if it is already on the news, it is probably late for social media. So, use the plans as guidelines, but realize that timely events might trump or add to your plan.
  • (to be shown at Brigade command and higher level)
  • (to be shown at Brigade command and higher level)
  • (to be shown at Brigade command and higher level)
  • As long as I am here, let’s talk about a few other options that are out there. Stories, videos, etc. can be posted to Photos, videos and stories can be distributed via DVIDS. These two platforms are different and do not talk to each other. Ever wonder how you can get your photo on AKO? We have answers. Using innovative platforms to share information is useful, too. Such as our social media slideshare site, where you can get more information and answers.
  • Now, since we have the 3-2 SBCT Commander in the room, let’s take a closer look at their Facebook page. What do we like about this page? How can this page be improved to better enforce command messages? - what about the advertising? By registering your page at, we can add it to our monthly list of official pages that we submit to Facebook. We have an agreement with Facebook that they will remove any advertising from official pages. This way it does not appear that your unit is endorsing an particular products, and it prevents targeting advertisement to military audiences, which could become problematic.
  • With one minor settings adjustment, see how the command messages are the dominating factor? Your administrator can set this as the default view so that everyone who lands on your pages sees your messages first. They can still click to see the other comments, and they can still interact and join discussions. Yet, your message is not driven down by potentially off-topic conversations. This still allows people to go to the site to comment and engage. However, at first view, the command messages are the first thing one sees. This helps to ensure your messages are seen, and that potentially off-topic messages are not as readily seen.
  • Let’s compare this page to the next one. Take a look at the look, the feel, and some of the posts.
  • Now, how does this page look differently? Which page would you want to follow? Which one appears more ‘official’?
  • I hope that I have answered your questions today, and given you some food for thought - some tools for your kitbag.
  • If you have any questions, here is our contact information. These slides are also available at: More information can also be found at:
  • Commanders strategy improving mission effectiveness using social media

    1. 2. Effects-based communications -a cultural change to use the tools available today Improving Mission Effectiveness Using Online and Social Media Platforms
    2. 3. “ Tactical Positioning and Deployment in the Social Space” Gen Craig R. McKinley, USAF, Air Force National Guard Social Media for Defense and Government forum Washington D.C. January 20-22, 2010
    3. 4. -increased speed and transparency of information -determining which events make news and which do not -ability to set agendas and influence public opinion Social media changing our operating environment
    4. 5. U.S. forces in Vietnam could enter and leave a village before anyone outside the area was aware of their presence. Today, it is possible that video of the coalition forces activities can be uploaded and shared online prior to the patrol returning to base. Change in operational environment
    5. 6. During a successful firefight against the Jaish al Mahdi (JAM), U.S. Special Forces and Iraqi forces killed a number of enemy fighters, rescued a hostage, and destroyed a weapons cache. The story that was told: 17 people were killed during prayer at a Shiite mosque Why? 26 March 2006; Iraq
    6. 8. Where today’s Soldiers get their information
    7. 9. Fort Hood, November 2009
    8. 10. Fort Hood “Garrison” <ul><li>Social Media became a key place to correct the record and provide information </li></ul><ul><li>Fort Hood was the most blogged and tweeted about topic of the week </li></ul><ul><li>Updates were posted to the Army’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, resulting in over 20,000 responses and interactions. </li></ul>A Wikipedia entry entitled “Fort Hood shooting” was up within 2 hours
    9. 11. Examples - Garrison
    10. 12. Examples - Operational
    11. 13. Operational Social media in action: releasing combat footage/photos via social media as a key part of your operational release strategy.
    12. 14. Examples - FRG
    13. 15. Choosing the right platform
    14. 16. Selecting the best platform A video that shows Soldiers doing a humanitarian mission Your monthly unit newsletter Commander’s Corner – your letter to the Soldiers and families Photos of Soldier promotions Command Messages Inclement weather updates
    15. 17. Some things are hard to measure
    16. 18. Measures of Effectiveness
    17. 20. Measures of Effectiveness
    18. 21. Measures of Effectiveness *demographics* Gender, Countries, Cities, Languages
    19. 22. Why use? -improves mission effectiveness -saves money -people already talking; providing the platform helps manage message -timely dissemination of information -transparency -reaches audiences where they are already at -squelch rumors -pulse of troops -reach all friends & family members -geographic bachelors and single Soldiers -encourage participation -improves espirit de corps
    20. 23. Why NOT use? -just because everyone else is -nobody dedicated -not enough content to keep engaging Then what? -send your information to higher IOT be included on their page.
    21. 24. Command Climate -policy for use (during duty day?) -education – troops, families -who updates your page -will you personally contribute -how low in chain of command do you go -strategy -branding
    22. 25. Education vs. Regulation OPSEC & UCMJ
    23. 26. Register at
    24. 27. Tips - What works for us <ul><li>Language </li></ul><ul><li>Photo of the day </li></ul><ul><li>Strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Synchronize efforts on all platforms </li></ul><ul><li>Mixed dose of ‘medicine’ and fun </li></ul><ul><li>Look at ends, ways, means </li></ul>
    25. 28. Social Media Strategy U.S. Army Social Media Strategy for the USMA change of superintendent ceremony 19 July 2010. Monday Theme: USMA Change of Superintendent LOE: Sustaining an all volunteer force Flickr: Fireman carry, Graduation Hat Toss, Color Guard Photo of day: Cutline: Cadets simulate a mortar attack on a combat outpost. During the combat outpost exercise, companies of cadets were tasked with securing their area of operation from insurgent attacks while maintaining good relations with the local villagers. Missions ranged from negotiations with the village sheik, quick reaction team responses to attacks, medical evacuations and route clearing operations. Facebook: #1: #2: #1: (0900) West Point welcomes the 58th Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy today. Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr. will assume command from Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck in a ceremony at 10 a.m. Lt. Gen. Hagenbeck is scheduled to retire from the U.S. Army after serving for almost 40 years.” (Photo: West Point Aerial) #2: (1200) &quot;'The badge of rank which an officer wears on his coat is really a symbol of servitude -- servitude to his men.' He (Lt. Gen. Hagenbeck) instilled that spirit in the Corps.&quot; - Gen. George W. Casey Jr. quoting Gen. Maxwell Taylor, a former USMA Superintendent, during today's Military Academy Change of Command ceremony. Tweets: #1: #2: #1: (0900) “ The United States Military Academy bids farewell to Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck during a change of command ceremony at 10 a.m. today. #2: (1200) &quot;I consider having the opportunity to lead West Point as the capstone assignment of my career,&quot; LTG Buster Hagenbeck: Blog: Blog post written by SSG Dale Sweetnam, OCPA, OSMD A story announcing the event will be staged in feature spot first thing of the day. Story pre-written by: Ms. Mastin will run with stock photo until photos of ceremony received. Myles Cullen will take photos. Other: Chief Cam will be produced at event; etc. etc. Goal: Work in coordination with USMA to publicize the event. Inform the widest possible public of the historic event. Measure of Effectiveness: Facebook : Posts: 3, Comments: 163, Likes: 1,589, Impressions: 397,000 Twitter: Tweets: 3, Retweets: 7, Click throughs: 2,810 Flickr : Posted Photos: 3, Views: 3,458 story: Page views: 937
    26. 29. <ul><li>Ends (objectives) </li></ul><ul><li>Develop a better understanding of the environment </li></ul><ul><li>To assist the command in providing better, more agile, and credible public information about the AOR </li></ul><ul><li>Enhanced unity of effort </li></ul>Strategy Ends, Ways, Means
    27. 30. <ul><li>Ways (how one organizes or applies the resources) </li></ul><ul><li>To enable social media to achieve the commander’s desired ends is the concept that the social media use must be in the form of a Commander’s Social Media Program </li></ul><ul><li>Organize Social Media Program for success </li></ul><ul><li>Practice Social Media Monitoring </li></ul><ul><li>Implement strategy that balances security and sharing </li></ul><ul><li>Enact policies that allow social media to be agile </li></ul><ul><li>Outreach tool to enhance unity of effort </li></ul>Strategy Ends, Ways, Means
    28. 31. <ul><li>Means (resources available to pursue objectives) </li></ul><ul><li>Skilled information operators, public affairs specialists, intelligence collectors and analysts </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Language skills </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Strategic insights </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Understanding of social media </li></ul></ul>Strategy Ends, Ways, Means
    29. 32. -DVIDs -AKO -innovative platforms More helpful tools
    30. 37. -Commanders and planners must take this environment into consideration when conducting IPB and mission analysis. -must develop tactical agility to stay ahead of increasingly quick information flow -devise strategy at every level to take advantage of opportunities -take measures to mitigate negative aspects Take Aways
    31. 38. So now what? Cultural change to use tools available
    32. 39. MAJ Juanita Chang [email_address] 703-697-1849 SSG Dale Sweetnam [email_address] 703-614-0371