Government and Social Media Military Facebook Use Study
IntroductionThe growth of social media is evident even among the ranks of government. The fivebranches of the United States Military have been social media champions and there ismuch to learn from their efforts as we see in this report.This is the first report published, which focuses on the US Military’s use of Facebook.1There are four other reports that focus on Government Facebook use including Healthand Human Services (HHS), Hispanic oriented, Other Government pages, and a finalComparison Report, which compares the use of Facebook among all these segments ofthe US government. Together, these five reports comprise the entire 2012 USGovernment Facebook Use Report.GoalThe goal of this report series is to provide government agencies with a bench-marking tool so they may know how their social media channels compare within theirown branch of government, and among all government social media properties. Thistool may be used by government agencies with existing social media channels as wellas those looking to launch for the first time.US Military Facebook Pages: By the NumbersAll five branches of the military—Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and CoastGuard—have made their way to social media, and built a significant presence in theinterim. Joining these on Facebook are corresponding Reserve and recruitment pagesas well as fan pages for other sectors of the military, such as the Department ofDefense, US Department of Justice (DOJ) and numerous fan pages for veteran affairs.In total, there are 14 military Facebook fan pages with an average of approximately650,000 fans (at the time of our research). During the eight week period in which datawas researched, the number of fans grew by 17.3% (95,833) per page. According to1 All analysis was performed between January and March of 2012.
Facebook’s new “Talking About” data, an average of 3.78% (24,514) of fans are talkingabout the respective fan pages—8.95% growth since the original calculation in January.The large growth of fan engagement may be correlated to content creation. Militarypages average between three to four posts per day (3.9), roughly 19 posts per weekincluding weekends when 92.9% of pages posted content. With relatively active pagesnotwithstanding, fan engagement (meaning those who like, share or comment onposts) averages just .12%, or 680 fan interactions per post. How did the data pan out?Let’s delve deeper to find out which pages had the most output and reciprocalengagement.The US Department of Defense Facebook page.
Top Fan Counts among Military AgenciesTop performers across the social media platforms for the military are The Marines andthe United States Marine Corps. Both of these agencies surpass the 2-million-fan markwith 2,121,130 and 2,350,885, respectively. Following the two in fan count, with morethan 1 million fans, is the US Army and the National Guard with 1,399,157 and1,190,407, respectively. There is a significant gap in the number of fans accrued byeach page, which is also evident in the percentage of fans “Talking About” the pagesand percentage of growth over the previous couple of months. The Marines and the USArmy employed similar strategies, posting eight and six times per day, respectively,including weekends. The US Army, however, used several more custom tabs than theMarines.The United States Marine Corps had the most fans of all military Facebook pages.
Growth of Military PagesFrom January through March, military fan pages experienced an average of 17.3%increase in fan count. At the same time, there was a 9% increase in the averagenumber of fans “Talking About” these pages. The Unites States Air Force fan baseexperienced the largest growth spurt with a 29.6% (198,465) increase in their fan basefrom January to March. When calculated daily, about 5,000 people liked the militarypage each day. The pages data for fans "Talking About" and engagement per post isconcurrent with the large growth of their fan base, which can be attributed toconsistent posting —2.4 times per day— as well as the use of photos, which has provento generate more activity across the board. The US Army also saw considerable growthsince the study began with a 22.6% increase (257,655). Consequently, fans "TalkingAbout" the US Army page grew by nearly 16% as well.All but one of the seven pages with more than a 15% increase in fan base alsoexperienced an increase in the percentage of fans "Talking About" or engaging withtheir content. A prime example of this is the US Coast Guard, which grew its fan baseby 20%, and grew its fans “Talking About” by over 100% as well.
The US Coast Guard grew its fan base by over 20% in an eight-week period.
What are US Military Agencies Talking About?The most commonly used content among all military agencies is photos. The Marinesofficial page publishes numerous photo albums, including Fan of the Week pictures andCorp Top Shots of the men and women at war. The Veterans Benefits Administration -U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VBA) also makes use of the photo tab by postingevent photos from various outreach programs. Though the latter is not as active as,say, the Marines or other branches of the military, photos appear to be the unifyingmedium across all tabs; they are easy to share and a tangible way to connect with fans.Military agencies use Facebook to disseminate news and information about theirrespective agencies. Recent developments, media clips and features, recruitmentinformation, outreach events, and events happening at camps and bases around theworld. Photos appear to generate the most fan engagement, both from fans and thepage itself. The US Air Force often posts photos and asks fans to caption the image, astrategy that has proved successful in the past. A recent photo-caption post generatedas much as 120 shares; 1,480 "likes"; and 2,602 comments.The US Air Force often uses images to spark engagement on their page.
Who’s Talking about Military Agencies?The number of people “Talking About” a page indicates the number of fans creatingstories about said page, including: sharing, liking, commenting, answering questions orresponding to an event.2 Based on these criteria, an average of 3.78% of fans (24,514)are actively talking about each military page. This was the highest percentage of all fourgovernment segments analyzed, and nearly double the “Talking About” figure for HHSagencies. Since we began analyzing the data in January, the number of people talkingabout the military pages grew by nine percent. Engagement of fans on a per-post level,however, is comparatively lower.As described in the blog post on Health and Human Services (HHS) Facebook use, thedifference between engagements per post, which is manually counted, and “TalkingAbout,” which is computed by Facebook, can be partly explained by the amount of fansengaging in existing stories versus those creating stories. According to the data, anaverage of 2,039 fans (0.12% of total) fans of US Military pages (2,039) engage witheach post on these 14 Facebook pages.The US Navy ranks highest of all HHS agencies in percentage of fans “Talking About” their page.2 For this study, the most recent three posts that had been on the page for over 24 hours were analyzed.
Open Door PolicyWhile the US Military is inherently a rigid institution, their social media presence is verymuch the complete opposite. In fact, 71% of military fan pages allow fans to freely postcomments, pictures or videos directly on their Facebook wall, as opposed to simplyhaving the ability to respond to an existing post. This is the highest among allgovernment segments, and well above the average of 59% for all government pages.With the exception of the Coast Guard, all Facebook pages belonging to the fivebranches of the US Military allow fans to post on their wall. Pages for the VBA, VeteransHealth Administration and the DOJ do not allow fans to engage with their pages as well.Interestingly, barring fans from posting on their Facebook walls did not affect fanengagement more than, say, quantity of tabs or frequency of postings did. The UnitedState Marine Corp. page, for instance, allows its 2.4 million fans to post on its wall, hassix custom tabs and posts 3.8 posts per day but still only averages 0.09% of its fanbase engaging with each post.Comparatively, pages with fewer fans, such as the DOJ (35,422 fans) that does notallow fan posts directly, still average 1.08% (382) fan engagements per post. Whiletotal fan engagements underwhelm, the percentage margin of the DOJ is significant.
The Marines page allows fans to post directly to their wall.Facebook tabs — Which are the Most Popular among the Military?Though content varies greatly across pages, video tabs are the most commonly used.Some pages display elaborate video content, such is the case with the Coast Guardsofficial Facebook page, which links their video tab to the branchs YouTube channel.The Air Force hosts a series of short video clips on Facebook, with content ranging fromofficer interviews in the vein of official press statements, clips of basic training andrescue missions. The DOJ posts videos of media clips and has an “About Us” section ofsorts with videos explaining the different roles and positions within the department. Forlarger bodies of government like these, videos help give a face to an otherwiseambiguous institution. The Air Force is presumably utilizing their video channel as a
public relations outlet while other pages, such as United States Marine Corps page, usetheir video channels to reinforce their message and values as an institution.Another commonly used tab, though not prevalent throughout all, is that used forrecruitment. The National Guard allows fans to apply online via a special tab while theofficial United States Marine Corps page (managed by recruiting command) promptsfans to enter information about themselves in order to contact a recruiter.One tab that stands out among others is the Top Fans app found on the Marines page.This app ranks fans and provides a score and a leader board for fans who are the mostactive on the page—an interesting example of a page taking engagement and socialstatus rewards to the next level. We feel this is an idea that will show up more oftenon other government Facebook pages in the future.The Marines Top Fans Facebook application which ranks users by engagement.
Tab Usage by the MilitaryTabs counted were those in addition to the default Photos and Likes tabs. The averagenumber of tabs used among all military pages is 5.4, and range from one to 10. Mostpages in the study used between four and six tabs. The VBA has the least number offans (24,230) and only uses one custom tab. The two pages with the highest tab usagewere the National Guard3 and Veterans Health Administration. Each used eight or moretabs to host a wide array of information.News tabs were popular among the pages, as many fans presumably use Facebook tostay informed and learn about the military branch or department they follow.The US Army, National Guard and US Coast Guard used tabs to highlight members oftheir respective organizations.4 The US Army for example has a tab that recognizesSenior Leaders.The Veterans Health Administration leads in usage of custom tabs by military agencies.3 A number of custom tabs have been removed since the original study, likely due to the tab resizing that occurred inFebruary 2012. The National Guard for example had 16 tabs at one point and now has only 8.
How often do Military Agencies Post?Posting for military pages ranges from as much as 8.6 posts per day (Marines) to as lowas 1.6.45 Overall, military pages post more than twice as often as all other governmentpages, with an average of 3.9 posts per day compared to 1.4. The page with the mostposts per day is the Marines page, followed by the US Army with 7.4 posts per day andthe National Guard and the US Navy with an average of 6.6 and 5.8 posts per day,respectively. These military branches, which also ranked as the pages with the highestfan counts, were the most active and included posts on the weekend. The pages withthe lowest fan counts did not only abstain from posting on the weekends but also postless frequently during the week.The Marines page posts nearly nine times per day, evidenced above on a typical day of posts.4 The US Department of Justice (DOJ) was excluded as they did not post during the evaluation period.
Do Military Pages Post on the Weekend?Surprisingly, 93% of military pages—all but one of the 14—post on weekends. Overall,this compares quite favorably as only 24% of all government pages post on theweekend. The DOJ fan page is the only military agency that does not post on theweekends. SundayThe US Army, like most military pages posts on the weekend.
Top Performers among Military AgenciesThe page with the most fan engagement is the US Navy’s official fan page, with 42,509of their 517,323 fans (8.22%) creating stories about the page. While the Marinesofficial Facebook page tallied the most number of fans with 2,350,885 fans, the officer-run Marines Facebook page came in a close second with 2,121,130 fans. Third on thelist was the official U.S. Army page with 1,399,157—significantly fewer fans than thefirst two. Conversely, the Army had a higher percentage of fans "talking about" thepage than did either Marines Corp. page, with 4.77% of fans, 3.76% of fans and 2.72%talking about the three pages, respectively. The Marines and Army were active in theirposting of photos and videos while The National Guard strongly focused on bringingattention to active members and veterans.The US Department of Veterans Affairs Facebook page had the second-highest engagement per postduring the evaluation period.
Dis-ConnectionOn the lower end of all 14 military pages are the DOJ, U.S. Army Reserve and the VBA,with 35,422; 30,234; and 24,230 fans; respectively. The US Army Reserve page,which only grew by 6.9%, along with the Department of Defense with a comparable9.8% growth, experienced a decline in engagement: -41.89% and -20.9%, respectively.One can infer that while considerable growth generates more stories and conversation,static, slow-growing Facebook pages often deter conversation.The DOJ is the only page that does not post on the weekend and is also in the minoritywith regards to sourcing outside content. The DOJ exclusively posts content from itsown justice.gov site, most of which are public affairs press releases.The US Army Reserve page had a decline of 42% in engagement per post during the evaluation period.
Application UsageEight of the 14 military pages used programs such as Hootsuite or Publisher to managetheir pages. Regardless of their usage of applications to post content, all but one of themilitary pages posted on the weekends. Pages that used an application averaged moreposts per day than those that did not, 4.5 versus 3.2 per day. The military was farmore open about using applications than other government segments, as only 21% ofall government used them. The most popular application tool used by military pageswas Hootsuite, which was used by five of the 14 pages, while Publisher was used by 3pages: the National Guard, the Marines and the US Marines Corp.The National Guard uses the Publisher application to help manage its posts.
Top Findings among US Military Pages The Marines’ official page and the officer-operated Marines Facebook page were the two military pages with the most fans, both with over 2 million 92% of military pages post on the weekend, compared to 24% of all government pages Nearly 4% of fans are “Talking About” each military page, the highest rate among all government segments, twice as high as Health & Human Services Photos are the most popular content type among military pages Social Media tabs are used heavily by the military, and apps such as the Top Fans application will likely show up more on government pages in the future Military pages used an average of 5.4 custom tabs Military pages post more than twice as often as all other government pages, with an average of 3.9 posts per day Military pages with the lowest fan counts did not only abstain from posting on the weekends but also post less frequently during the week 57% of the 14 military pages used programs such as Hootsuite or Publisher to manage their pages 71% of military fan pages allow fans to freely post content directly on their Facebook wall, as opposed to simply being able to respond to an existing post Pages with rapid growth generated more stories and conversation while static, slow-growing Facebook pages often deterred conversationFinal ThoughtThere are a number of factors at play in a successful social media campaign. We hopethat by reading this Government Facebook Use Study you will be able to betterunderstand, analyze and rate your agencys position and strategy among your peers. Aswe see, the public is hungry for information but keeping them engaged is key.For additional copies of this report or to request the full data set, please send an emailto: firstname.lastname@example.org