2011 Georgia National Guard Social Media White Paper

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A thorough examination of the successes experienced in the Georgia National Guard's 2011 online outreach initiatives.

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2011 Georgia National Guard Social Media White Paper

  1. 1. 2011 Georgia National Guard Social Media White PaperBackground:Unlike corporate public relations, a Public Affairs Office depends much more on IntegratedMarketing Communications (IMC). Answers procured from Lasswell’s communication maxim(who says what to whom in which channel with what effect) are about as easy for PAO’s to nailto the wall as Jell-O. Between media relations, community relations, command information,logistics, operations, material collection, speech writing, strategic communication, and (onoccasion) crisis communication, the Ga. DoD PAO barely has enough manpower to accomplishall of its basic taskings – let alone to pursue far-reaching initiatives and ground-breaking policyin new media.But pursued we have, and – in many ways – not only executed our “meat and potato” PAOfunctions at a high level of excellence, but we’ve also identified new paths, set new polices,streamlined antiquated logistics, and corrected out-dated non sequiturs. Central in all of this hasbeen our capacity to create, from scratch, a cohesive online strategy. The fundamental questionsabout what type of information needs to come from the PAO, in what way, on what channel, andto what anticipated effect have been answered.But the time for PR 101 is over. Most of the online channels and methods put in place for the Ga.DoD in 2010 were touch points and techniques that should have been put in place years prior.While it is worth noting – and celebrating – the Georgia Guard’s achievements online(unprecedented traffic and interaction; second place in the NGB “Resiliency” video contest, firstplace in the NGB “Support” patch contest on Facebook, 2010 best website in the NationalGuard; 2010 second best website in the U.S. Army; etc.), there was still room for improvement.Luckily, we were better placed to make assessments about these considerations in 2011 – after ayear of successful, albeit fundamental, online outreach – than we were in 2010. We better knewwhat type of content we’re expected to provide; what type of content we should provide; howbest to provide that content relative to the audience who needs to see it; and how best tooutsource content which we are not resourced to provide directly.Streamlining these processes was our primary new media initiative in 2011. Doing so ensuredthat we established and maintained consistent precedents in our administration of Ga. DoDonline channels, and that we adequately accounted for our role in adjusting the culture ofexpectations as it relates to online content and content production and distribution.Existing Channels:In order to reach the geographically dispersed stake holders of the Ga. DoD, online outreach hasbecome the primary means of public communication for the Georgia Guard PAO. Throughout2011, the Georgia National Guard was a trendsetter in online outreach – connecting stakeholderswith command information in more ways and on more channels than any other state NationalGuard agency in the country. Below is a digest and analysis of the many and sundry new mediatapped by the Georgia National Guard to get out its message. 1
  2. 2. Website: NGB identified www.GaDoD.net as the best website in the National Guard, and the site was also selected as second best in the entire U.S. Army in 2010. While the website totaled just 43 articles, press releases and updates during 2009 (or 4.3 posts per month), with a reinvigorated UPAR program and a new strategic vision in place in 2010, the website has seen an explosion of content– 359 additional news stories, press releases and special events updates since that time (or 15posts a month) – more than a 300% increase in the content generated and posted to the websiteannually, thanks largely to the committed and tireless efforts of the PAO collectors.The articles posted to the website feature appealing imagery, relevant hyperlinks, and embeddedvideos (when applicable). The link from each story produced and posted on the website is, inturn, posted to the Georgia Guard Facebook fan page where individual updates generated a totalof 2,485,242 impressions in 2011 alone. Needless to say, the stories that the Georgia Guard PAOhas always spent countless manhours producing, are now each generating thousands of views, asopposed to hundreds.Most every state Guard agency has a website to post stories, of course. What makes the GeorgiaNational Guard page unique and exceptional is both the look and functionality of the websitecombined with its outstanding search engine optimization (SEO). Despite having an outdatedportal engine and no professional webmaster on staff, the Georgia Guard website is among thebest looking in the National Guard. But instead of simply leaning on a slick, expensive interface(which we could not afford), or a graphic designer (which we do not have), or a webmaster(which we also do not have), we focused on purpose, underlying principles, fundamental onlineoutreach strategies, and clear command messages to transform the website into the commandinformation channel we needed it to be.The transformation has been a success.A close analysis of Google Analytics and Google Ad Words metrics indicates thatwww.GaDoD.net is dominating its keyword market, drawing in thousands upon thousands oforganic viewers from related keyword searches. The first non-paid-for Google result for“Georgia National Guard” is www.GaDoD.net. Given that Google constitutes 80% of the searchengine market share, and there are (according to Google ad words) 12,100 monthly globalsearches for “Georgia National Guard,” we can estimate that our website’s premier SEOplacement generates for us the lion’s share of those monthly click-throughs.This is significant because it allows the organization to have more centralized control (a lacommand messaging) over what people discover and ultimately think about the organization. Ofcourse we have other web presences (on various social media and other online channels) thatcompete for the top spots in related search results as well. This means that, of the first websitesthat appear in a given relevant search result, the Georgia Guard homepage and many of the otherchannels we manage are most likely to appear at the top of the list of results (the ones most likelyto be viewed by people looking for information about our organization). This is the epitome of“controlling your brand,” and it’s a surefire litmus test for any successful website. 2
  3. 3. A quick analysis from HubSpot’s website/SEO grader indicates that www.GaDoD.net ranks inthe 93rd percentile of all websites in the world, has over 14,100 indexed web pages, is linked toby nearly 40 other domains, and its copy reads at a graduate level.One key element in generating traffic and improving SEO – across all Georgia Department ofDefense channels – has been the seamless integration and syncopation of different types ofcontent onto different channels. Basic traffic metrics show that YouTube holds more than 43%of the market share for online videos, and Flickr holds a significant portion of market share forsharing photos – positioning these two websites as the prime candidates for hosting GeorgiaGuard videos and photos, respectively. Instead of hosting videos or photos directly to the websitealone (or doubling up work and splitting viewership by posting the same files to both the websiteand to social media), we embed applicable videos straight from YouTube onto the website andhyperlink all our story images to their Flickr counterparts. Doing this not only reduces the burdenon our server and our staff, but it also drives traffic between our channels, thus optimizing ouroverall online reach.Other features on our website include a live feed from our Facebook fan page – where we postall the latest news, images, videos and updates about the organization. This widget, located onthe right side of the website (regardless of which page you happen to be on) ensures that eventhose who do not have Facebook accounts have exposure to the high-quality updates postedthere.Just below our Facebook widget is the NGB news widget – which helps ensure that NGBcommand messaging has a prominent placement on our premier command channel.The website, of course, has separate sections for news, archived news, news releases and specialevent updates. Each of these is fed into an RSS feed which can, in turn, be subscribed to throughthe GovDelivery service – a service Georgia was one of the first states in the Guard to startusing. To date, about 389 individuals have already opted in for our e-mail updates. These areopt-ins, mind you, not addresses we manually added to a distribution list.Of course, at the bottom of the website, we have prominently featured links to our internalcommunication channels. At the top of the page, we’ve made great strides to include as muchsalient information as possible in our newly designed menu bar. The news tab displays a host ofcommand publications and websites as well as a link to all the older internally produced newsstories. The websites tab features a multitude of resource which have proven useful to ourCitizen-Soldiers and their families, and our multimedia tab features a variety of current andarchived multimedia.The press tab features a chronological listing of Ga. DoD news releases, and the biographies ofthe executive leaders of the Georgia National Guard. These biographies are more in depth thanmost any provided by other military organizations, featuring not just a one-page bio of theindividual, but also a link to all the videos, photos and news stories in which the individual hasrecently appeared as well as links to that leader’s most recent speeches and op-eds. This providesthe press, and anyone else, with the fullest possible context with which to positively view ourcommanders. 3
  4. 4. The community relations page helps to streamline the approval process for special events supportby providing all the necessary documentation and guidance one needs to make such a request.Also featured in the community relations tab is a link to the public events calendar, a listing ofpending special events within the organization, and a link to a comprehensive list of militarydiscounts.The speaker’s bureau stands as a tangible resource for the many officers and enlisted Soldierswho go out into their communities to speak about the National Guard, on behalf of the NationalGuard. Not only have we provided a host of resources and tips on how to write and deliver aspeech, but a plethora of example speeches written by the PAO and delivered by Georgia Guardcommanders is available as well.The history tab links to the various sources where Georgia Guardsmen can go to learn about thesignificant and storied history of Georgia’s Citizen-Soldiers. The contacts tab hosts the mostcomprehensive list of primary office lines ever made publicly available by the Georgia Guard,and the home page tab offers links to both the disclaimer and the most recent annual reports.Each of the Georgia Guard’s various online channels is integrated with the website in such a wayas to facilitate the overall strategic communication efforts of the Georgia Department of Defense– allowing the organization to sync command messages across all channels and communities.There is no major subset of public information about the Georgia Guard which cannot (directlyor indirectly) be ascertained through the organization’s external website. That is, after all, themeasure by which we evaluate the relative effectiveness of a command information channel, is itnot?All of this comes together to help make www.GaDoD.net the central hub for information andnews about the Georgia National Guard. These are just a few of the reasons – both quantitativeand qualitative – as to why the Georgia National Guard’s website and the content it hosts areworthy of praise. Any agency would be hard pressed to do as much with the website in as short atime with so few resources as has been accomplished by the Georgia National Guard over thepast two years. Facebook: The Georgia Guard’s online dominance has not been limited to its website. While the Georgia Guard has a dominating presence on Facebook (with over 5,000 fans – eighth amongst all state National Guard profiles), the organization has a pervasive presence on other social media and online outlets as well, to include: Twitter (with over 2,800 followers – second amongst all state National Guard profiles), Flickr (accumulating over 150,000 views this past year), YouTube (37,640 video views – 7th most inthe national Guard), Issuu (over 75,830 document views), SlideShare, FeedBurner, GovDelivery,LinkedIn, Google Plus, Wikipedia, Muziboo, Bit.ly, Vimeo and more. 4
  5. 5. We’ve seen a momentous boost in traffic and interest throughout all our channels. Our Facebookpage in 2009 had less than 150 fans; our Facebook page today generates as many as 3,000 impressions per individual update over the course of a day or two. In 2011 alone, our posts generated 2,485,242 impressions. In fact, the Georgia Guard has a more than 4,000 vote lead over our nearest competitor in the National Guard’s “Show Support” competition – having generated more than 15,200 votes of support for Georgia. In the 2010 National Guard resiliency video contest, the Georgia Guardfinished second amongst all states – generating over 20,000 votes, thanks in large part to theinterest generated on Facebook and other social media.The responsiveness of our online communities to the activity and quality of content we’vemaintained has shown that our online outreach efforts have been a total success. Not only havewe created a culture of expectation within our own organization whereupon Georgia Guardsmenknow where to look for certain types of information, but the same is true of the families, friendsand employers of our service members as well. It’s worth nothing that all the major local mediain Georgia with social media accounts have made a concerted effort to connect with ourchannels. We’ve also seen an outpouring of support from other military organizations on socialmedia – from NGB favoriting our Flickr photos, to the U.S. Army posting our stories onto theirwebsite and then @replying our Facebook fan page with the links to those stories, to being addedonto nearly 170 Twitter lists.The two-way symmetric nature of our social media management approach has also served as atripwire to public opinion. Comments from interested candidates looking to know more aboutOCS, to spouses looking to know more about their husband’s unit’s efforts in Afghanistan, toenthused Guardsmen getting excited about the recent story covering their company’s trainingexercise --- all serve as data points to help guide the PAO editorial calendar.Similarly, if a disgruntled Soldier comes to a discussion thread to vent, his comments serve as atripwire for the chain of command to address his concerns. A disgruntled individual will bedisgruntled whether or not our organization has a Facebook page – better that his venting shouldtake place in a channel the organization controls than though a medium where we have noopportunity to address the negativity – better that he have the opportunity to vent in a channel wemonitor than going to the media to generate negative publicity. We have done this, successfully,a few times throughout the year - reinforcing the value of this channel to the Command.In a novel approach not previously employed by any other military organization before theGeorgia Guard, we take all of our positive external media coverage and share it on Facebook.This provides a running log of media coverage, informs our community about what’s going oninside the organization, allows the PAO to “outsource” coverage of events for which we lack thebandwidth to cover, and (perhaps most importantly from the PAO perspective) positively 5
  6. 6. reinforces the media to give us favorable coverage by publicly recognizing their work anddriving traffic to their website. Unlike a B2C corporation, we do not generate revenue fromwebsite traffic, and so there is really no reason to fear directing folks away from our channels(especially if it’s to validate the good things another thought leader is saying about the GeorgiaGuard).We have seen that, not only have military organizations made an effort to share content with usthrough Facebook, but civilian media are following, commenting and sharing with us there aswell. Thus, our Facebook channel has become a fully functioning, largely symmetrical channelof communication. In keeping with our “one source, one link” philosophy for posting content, we do not upload videos directly to Facebook but, rather, post videos to YouTube and then cross-reference the link to drive traffic between our channels. We also do the same thing with high-resolution images on Flickr, news stories and releases on the website, b-roll video on Vimeo, special notices on SlideShare, and finished print products on Issuu. The idea is to upload a given type of content on the channel where it can generate the most possible organic traffic, and then feed the link of that upload across other channels. For example, Flickr is a channel where its nearly 20-million viewers are inherently prone to look for/at high resolution images. Therefore, our best images generate more viewership on Flickr than they would if they were hosted on the website, or even Facebook. Therefore, the SEO of our images is much better on Flickr – especially relative to Facebook, where images are virtually undiscoverable through a generic search. Moreover, the functionality of using, sharing and viewing high resolution images on Flickr is much better than that of websites where such things are secondary to that website’s purpose – making the tool doubly useful for the press.The same basic rules are all about equally applicable to the various types of content listed aboveand their respective channels.Because many folks post an image or video to Facebook and receive high traffic for that video orimage relative to other Facebook content, they think that they are, therefore, optimizing theviewership of that content. The truth is that while an image on Facebook may generate moreviewership than a generic status update on Facebook, it’s not necessarily true that posting aphoto directly to Facebook generates more viewership than cross-linking a photo from Flickr. Infact, we have seen that cross-linking offers the best of both worlds: high Facebook impressions,and organic Flickr viewership.Still, we have found a use for the photo sharing functions on Facebook. We use Facebook’scapacity for mobile uploads to stream low-resolution, camera phone images from events to ourFacebook wall instantaneously. We have seen this generate great interest in our community 6
  7. 7. during instances of emergency or ceremony. Moreover, this provides yet another touch pointwhereupon we have a place to “hang” low-quality images and cutlines. Because we only placelow resolution images with brief cutlines on the Facebook photo platform, the culture ofexpectation is such that we now have an appropriate home for practically any type of stillphotography. This has proven particularly useful relative to UPARs and their “fast and dirty”work in the field, and so we have been able to preserve the quality and integrity of our Flickrchannel while at the same time optimizing the utility of UPAR content.The final, and perhaps greatest, value add we’ve received from our endeavors on Facebook hasbeen the sheer volume of traffic it has helped us generate between our channels. WhileFacebook, in and of itself, has an extremely high SEO (our Facebook page is the 7th Googleresult for “Georgia National Guard”), prior to our participation on the channel, there was only“one place” to post all of our content. Before 2010, all PAO content was being scattered to thewinds. News releases weren’t hung anywhere online, there wasn’t a single place to featureimages, news stories were being posted both to the Sportal and the website, there was no meansfor externally hosting pdfs... and the list goes on. Through Facebook, we found a single place topost all content as we generated it (internally) or found it (from external sources). Such amechanism doesn’t even exist through the Sportal, or our website.What’s more, Facebook already played (and continues to play) host to a significant portion ofour stake holders. Whereas it was an uphill battle to push folks away from what they were doingtoward our PAO channels, Facebook has allowed us to approach our stake holders where theyalready are, and seamlessly pull them into our information stream. Twitter: The Georgia Guard has the second most followed Twitter account of any state in the National Guard. With just under 3,000 followers, the Georgia National Guard account has also managed to acquire the followership of practically every local media outlet, many military outlets, and most every National Guard agency. Building this follower base was absolutely essential to making Twitter a useful channel for emergencies.In addition to building one of the most successful Twitter profiles in the National Guard, wehave also managed to build relationships with relevant “thought leaders” on Twitter. Theserelationships have allowed us to request support from the NGB account on Twitter to repostitems which are of strategic significance to the PAO, and have positively reinforced local mediafor their favorable news coverage.In addition to automated posts (from Facebook to Twitter), we also regularly monitor#nationalguard and #military for retweetable content. This both improves the quality of thecontent provided by our channel and strengthens the relationship between our PAO and thosePAO’s we retweet.By identifying the times at which certain Paper.li publications are published, we have been ableto target our online posting times in such a way as to co-op other military channels (like 7
  8. 8. FORSCOM), into helping drive traffic to our content. Additionally, @GeorgiaGuard has beenincluded in 170 Twitter lists – meaning there are ~170 “thought leader” lists (mostly military innature) of which the Georgia Guard is a part. This means that, not only are we attracting thoughtleaders to our channel, but we have become a thought leader ourselves. A cursory review of the @GeorgiaGuard Twitter account by HubSpot reveals that our account scores a 97.4/100, and is in the top 2.5 percentile of all Twitter accounts HubSpot has graded. HubSpot’s Twitter Grader measures the power, reach and authority of a given twitter account – or, in other words, howimpactful a Twitter account is. It does this using an algorithm that measures an account’s numberof followers, the power of those followers (i.e. how influential the people who are following usare), update frequency, update recency, follower/following ratio, and engagement (i.e. thenumber of times our account is retweeted or referenced). Flickr: As mentioned earlier, we use the “one link – one source” method of putting content online. This means that we identify the optimum channel for agiven type of content, and then exclusively post that type of content to that channel and thencrosslink that content to our other channels. For high-resolution images, this means identifyingthe best few photos from a given event, uploading them to Flickr, dropping them into theappropriate unit “set,” then posting the link to that image or set onto Facebook, and thenhyperlinking the image of a given web story to its Flickr counterparts. This reduces the amountof time we spend on uploading images, and it funnels our entire image viewing traffic to a singlesource – thus helping the image’s SEO and optimizing the chances of a potential “viral” effect.In our first year of Flickr use, 2010, we acquired 120,000 image views. In 2011, we saw morethan 150,000 views. In addition to that phenomenal viewership, we managed to connect withpractically all other military Flickr accounts. As a result, we have had 122 of our photosfavorited by the likes of NGB, the U.S. Army, and other preeminent accounts. During the winterstorm in January 2011, we generated as many as 2,000 image views on Flickr in a single day.One of the additional benefits of the “one link – one source” method is that it maximizes thenumber of primary SEO points we have. Indeed, the 11th Google search result for “GeorgiaNational Guard” is the Georgia Guard Flickr page. The first is our website, the 5th is Wikipedia,the seventh is Facebook, and the 14th is our Vimeo page. Simply by having effective presenceson these social media (which, themselves generate outstanding traffic), we have managed todramatically increase the organization’s control over the primary search results for ourorganization. This is significant not only because it significantly increases traffic to our channels(half of our website traffic comes from organic Google searches), but because it better allows usto positively influence perceptions about the organization (i.e. “manage our brand”). 8
  9. 9. We have instituted a rigorous organizational system for our Flickr photos, placing each photo ina unit set, and then each unit set in its corresponding MACOM collection. We also took greatpains to scour Flickr for outstanding photos of our Georgia Guardsmen, and then added each ofthose photos as “favorites” of the Georgia Guard account – further extending our repository ofdynamic imagery.The Georgia Guard has also taken full advantage of the geo tagging feature on Flickr (taking intoaccount all OPSEC concerns and regulations of course). The result is a stunning and dynamicmap of Georgia Guardsmen serving their state and nation all over the world. To our knowledge,no other state in the National Guard has done this. YouTube: Despite having zero access to full-time Ga. DoD employees using the internal network, the Georgia National Guard YouTube page has managed to accrue 37,640 video views and 89 subscribers. In terms of overall video views, Georgia comes in 7th amongst all states in the National Guard. The GNG is also 5th in subscribers and 7th in views per video. With 79 videos uploaded, Georgia has produced more videos than 3/4 of all other state National Guard agencies on YouTube. Because YouTube (owned/run by Google) is by far the most dominant video viewing/sharing platform available, it is the optimum platform for hosting our finished video packages and driving organic traffic tothem with SEO. And because high-quality video production is time-consuming, those videoswhich make it to YouTube are generally restricted to instances with relatively high commandmessage value. The type of news covered on the channel is diverse and far-reaching, and seemsto appeal to a wide scope of demographic groups.YouTube videos which accompany feature stories in print are embedded into the web version ofthose stories. This, in combination with the hyperlinking of images to their Flickr counterpartsand key words to prior stories on www.gadod.net, creates a mix of inbound and outbound linksthat greatly increases the SEO value of a given story relative to Google’s algorithm.YouTube videos are also often pushed, individually, to our Facebook page. Such Facebook postsgenerally generate between 2,000 and 3,000 impressions and tend to garner solid fan interactionwith positive responses.When other positive videos are produced on YouTube by third parties, we “favorite” them andthen assign them to a corresponding MACOM playlist. In so doing, those “favorites” are pushedto the Georgia National Guard YouTube channel, just under our internally produced videos. Thisnot only positively reinforces news organizations and others to continue producing positivepublicity for the GNG, but it makes the GNG YouTube channel more dynamic by giving us an 9
  10. 10. additional means for putting fresh content onto our channel more regularly. These externallyproduced videos are also often pushed to our Facebook page.When sharing a YouTube link onto Facebook, viewers can see the video directly from Facebook– if they so choose – yet their viewership is still included in our YouTube metrics. This ease-of-use increases click-throughs and overall viewership, but still maintains the viral potential of the“one link, one source” approach.The videos, in and of themselves, create excellent SEO points within and without YouTubesearches. For instance, a YouTube search for “Georgia National Guard” shows that almost all ofthe top 20 video results come from the official Georgia National Guard page – including the veryfirst result. The Georgia Guard page comes up first when looking for “Georgia National Guard”YouTube channels. And the official YouTube channel constitutes the 24th result for the samesearch on Google. It may seem like simply having a YouTube channel under the name of“Georgia National Guard” ensures prominent search result placement, but that’s not the case. Tohave such dominance over the results yielded in relevant web searches not only shows howeffective the SEO strategies have been this past year, but it also shows that the PAO hasestablished effective control over the Georgia National Guard brand – thus diminishinginaccurate and/or negative publicity.SlideShare:SlideShare isn’t a “primary channel,” per se. Really,it’s a supplemental, third-party website that allows usto quickly and efficiently upload pdfs, slide showpresentations and other documents. SlideShare’s sleekpresentation and interface lets folks review our uploadswith ease, and offers an easy-to-use html code so thatwe can embed the SlideShare document viewer rightinto any given announcement or article on thewww.gadod.net website.When sharing a SlideShare link onto Facebook,viewers can see the document directly from Facebook– if they so choose – yet their viewership is still included in our SlideShare metrics. This ease-of-use increases click-throughs and overall viewership, but still maintains the viral potential of the“one link, one source” approach.Following other SlideShare pages, such as the one run by the U.S. Army, gives us visibility ofthe command information priorities of our parent organizations, and their SlideShare uploads areeasy for us to share (via a permalink from which the document can be viewed instantly oruploaded, rather than through the exchange of bulky e-mail attachments). These externallyuploaded documents can also be favorited, thus offering them prominent placement on theGeorgia Guard SlideShare page, making the channel more dynamic and giving us an additionalmeans for putting fresh content onto our channel more regularly. These externally produceddocuments are also often pushed to our Facebook page where, again, they can be viewed directlyfrom Facebook. 10
  11. 11. SlideShare offers us yet another tier of outreach. Through this service, we have a place to quicklyupload the various special event and promotion announcements we receive – whereas, before, wehad to upload such documents directly to the www.gadod.net website or to the sportal, a processthat was time-consuming and cumbersome. Additionally, the words used in the SlideSharedocument descriptions and tags offer yet another touch point of SEO value for the Ga. DoD. Issuu: The Ga. DoD PAO started using Issuu to share command publications in November 2010. Immediately, our online viewership of the Georgia Guardsman magazine went from the 400-1,000 range to the 4,000-7,500 range. Indeed, the October edition received less than 500 downloads from our on-site hosting of the publication onwww.gadod.net, but the November 2010 edition of the magazine – which was posted to Issuuinstead – attracted just under 4,000 views. Since that time, our September 2011 edition sawnearly 10,000 views by itself, and we’ve generated a total of 78,432 document views.The explanation for this increased viewership issimple. Issuu’s flash-driven document displayreduces the barrier to entry, so folks dont have towait for a pdf to download. A publication that wastaking anywhere from five to twenty minutes todownload via pdf file on the internal network, isnow instantly accessible.Also contributing to the increased viewership wasthe fact that the service drives much more organictraffic. Issuu scans each document for keywordsand embeds much of the document’s text into themetadata of that document’s Issuu page. It alsomakes the text of the document searchable. Whilethe text of a pdf can also be searched, most searchengines don’t rank pdf results too highly on searchterm results. Therefore, Issuu raises a givendocument’s visibility to search engines relative tothe key terms and copy it scans, finds, and embeds into the meta data of its web pages. Add thatto the fact that Issuu.com already welcomes nearly two-million monthly visitors – visitors whoare naturally dispositioned to have an interest in magazines and other like-publications – and youget an SEO recipe that exponentially raises the visibility of, and traffic to, our commandpublication.Aside from the logistical benefits of the platform, there are intangible benefits as well. Forinstance, we’ve found that people are more likely to read the magazine when they have thecompelling visuals of the magazine readily available to catch their eye. The service also offers 11
  12. 12. the option to download any given publication -- so those who are more comfortable with Adobesviewer model can fall back on that.Another great feature is that Issuu provides ready-to-use html coding to embed a givenpublication – and the option to tailor that coding to a specific platform (like Joomla orWordPress). As a result, we’re able to embed our magazine right onto our homepage – thusgreatly increasing the publication’s visibility and traffic, and greatly decreasing the barrier toentry. GovDelivery: Our website has separate sections for news, archived news, news releases and special event updates. Flickr, YouTube, and Vimeo have their own RSS feeds as well. Each of these feedscan be subscribed to using the GovDelivery service – a service Georgia was one of the first statesin the Guard to start using. To date, about 389 individuals have already opted in for our e-mailupdates. These are opt-ins, mind you, not addresses we manually added to a distribution list.GovDelivery facilitates government-to-citizen communication solutions as a software as aservice platform that provides a fully-automated, on-demand public communication system usinge-mail, text messaging, RSS and social media integration and outreach. NGB elevated thevisibility of the service to encourage state agencies to take advantage and, at present, fully fundsour use of GovDelivery.Our GovDelivery updates include information from Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube,www.gadod.net news releases, and our Google Public Calendar of Events. Of these, theFacebook feed (which is worked through our primary RSS feedburner feed and is referred to bysubscribers as the “Georgia Department of Defense news, images and videos” update) is themost significant – as it encompasses all the major content we push to Facebook every day.One of the most appealing features of the service is that it allows us to drop in contact lists, builda news release or newsletter with the GovDelivery template which features our information andiconography, send the release to target contact lists, then track the open and click-through ratesof that message.Google Calendar:Before 2010, there were just two ways for our PAO to inform people about charities, balls, galas,races, tournaments, etc.: Send the information out via global e-mail distribution and post anannouncement on the Sportal. After a year’s worth of metric analyzation, we’ve come to realizethat the Sportal and global e-mail distro reach approximately the same audience – and thataudience only comprises about a fourth of entire organization (a population significantly smallerthan even our Facebook community). What’s more, these internal communications do not reachkey stake holders: interested media, family, retirees, and many M-day Soldiers. 12
  13. 13. Of course, we didn’t need to analyze metrics to know this. For years, people in the Ga. DoD –and the DoD as a whole – have complained about the organization’s ability to disseminate publicinformation widely and quickly. Enter the Ga. DoD PAO’s use of the Google office suite options. In addition to our comprehensive list of Google Alerts (which – for free – replaced an antiquated clip collection service that was costing us hundreds of dollars a month), our office Gmail address to receive those Google alerts and to which folks send general inquires, Google Analytics and Google Ad Words to analyze how we’re doing on web traffic and SEO, Google – through the Google calendar – also provides us with a platform to post all the public event announcements we previously had no time-efficient way of sharing. In the two years that we’ve been using the service, our Google Calendar of public events hasattracted 2,209 clicks. This calendar offers us a link to share the calendar as a whole, as well asseparate links for individual event announcements. And, because this calendar is public, we’reable to feed it onto the Facebook wall as a separate tab – where our community can view thelistings in chronological order – to our website under the community relations tab, and on oursportal home page.As opposed to the time-consuming process of gathering and posting a formal eventannouncement to the Sportal or in global e-mail, where only a fraction of the organization cansee it, we now have a time-efficient way to quickly and effectively share public eventannouncements. This tier of engagement also provides a means for quickly placating those whowant tangential event announcements promoted – while at the same time preserving the specialevents section of www.gadod.net for those events which have real strategic value for theorganization.RSS:RSS feeds serve as an excellent means for aggregating content onto a single, easy-to-readplatform. Those feeds can then be used to integrate channels by setting up automated updates.For example, the RSS feed we created for our Facebook posts aggregates all the things we postto the Georgia Guard Facebook wall, then feeds them to the “Recent Headlines” widget on theright side of www.gadod.net.RSS feeds, in and of themselves, can also be subscribed to directly by individuals wishing tohave that information stream fed directly into their daily accumulation of news. In fact, viewertools like Google Reader rely solely on RSS feeds to pull in information from various channelsindentified by the user. 13
  14. 14. Of all the RSS feed generators, Feed Burner is perhaps the most prominent. Because YouTube, Twitter and Flickr offer their own, relatively clean RSS feeds – we only needed to crease RSS feeds for our Facebook feed and forvarious pages of www.gadod.net. We use these RSS feeds to feed in to and create theGovDelivery e-mail digests mentioned earlier. Of the feeds we’ve created, the Facebook feed isthe most cumulative in nature – so that’s the one we offer to our community as the basic RSSsubscription option. Since creating this RSS feed on FeedBurner, the feed has generated over85,000 views and more than 5,000 click-throughs. Blog: As the Georgia National Guard built its comprehensive online presence essentially from scratch in 2010, one idea that was deliberately tabled was a blog. Although we knew we wanted to provide the Command with an informal channel to communicate to the organization, with so much else going on we knew we needed to focus first on necessities.We were also leery of committing ourselves to a channel that would depend too much on contentgeneration from the Adjutant General… or that might devolve into a collection of what-the-TAG-had-for-breakfast posts because, at our high operational tempo, we couldn’t adequatelymitigate those two risks inherent in blogs.On the other hand, we knew what we wanted: An informal channel that could have positiveeffect on the Georgia Guard. We also knew from discussions with senior leaders about certaincross-functional areas in the organization that needed to be addressed but were tricky due toresource shortages. In short, we wanted to provide leadership. Therefore, in 2011 we decided tofocus our blog on one particular theme: Professional development. Not only would this givedirection to our posts, it would address a known need in our organization for resources, thoughtleadership, and encouragement of professional development across the force.After careful consideration, we dubbed the blog The Professional Guardsman and staked a claimto our blog space. We decided to make the blog public, and to brand it relatively generically, inorder both to reach and to attract the broadest possible audience.Based on the blog’s potential impact on professional development, we immediately secured buy-in from the Adjutant General and other senior leaders. The TAG recorded a short introductoryvideo that acknowledged the perennial problem of finding the time to conduct professionaldevelopment, and noting that the site’s core purpose was to help address that issue. 14
  15. 15. Rather than build the blog from nothing, post by post, we used the Professional Guardsman as arepository for developmental materials we were already publishing in other venues. For example,a collection of our monthly book reviews in the Georgia Guardsman magazine became theProfessional Development Bookshelf. Not only does this serve as a single stop for Guardsmenlooking for a book to help their professional development, it also drives viewers back to ourother channels such as Issuu and our web page. We were also able to publish a rolling collectionof all of our reviews into a printable format that our Regional Training Institute has shared withstudents from across the Guard who attend classes here.We did the same with our Perspectives on Leadership video series. These videos highlightleaders at all levels, from across the components, and share observations, insights, and lessonslearned from their careers. More than just providing filler for the blog, this content reaches awhole other group of people in a completely different way, and is readily available to Guardsmenseeking to develop professionally.As for the posts themselves, we decided to allow three kinds: Commentary, observations, andpapers. Commentary posts consist of thoughts and opinions from Georgia Guardsmen on varioustopics. Sometimes contentious, often provoking, these can be a chance to share or air intriguingopinions. Observations from the front lines by Airmen and Soldiers serving around the world andright here in the States provide a good chance to learn vicariously what is demanded of us asleaders in the modern National Guard. Papers are professional articles and papers written byGeorgia Guardsmen that often were never widely distributed. Whether written at the WarCollege or Squadron Officer College, or published in professional journals, these pieces reflectthe thinking and research of our leaders.All three types of posts serve to reinforce one of the Adjutant General’s strategiccommunications priorities for the year: Highlight the leadership and positive example Georgiaprovides in the National Guard Bureau.The blog’s Resources page gives not only useful links, but suggests how interested readers mightuse them. Besides the sheer utility, these descriptions spur ideas for development in our readers.Finally, the "Management Headlines" tab takes visitors to a dynamically generated page of thelatest headlines in the management consulting field. These are the topics managers across thespectrum of civilian employers are talking about --- or will be soon. A periodic perusal can helptraditional Guardsmen better communicate and lead in the workplace – and help all of us bettercommunicate with civilians during domestic support operations.There are many ways to crack the blog “nut.” We’ve chosen this methodology to ensure that TheProfessional Guardsman remains useful to the organization, interesting to its readers, and viablefor the future. While still a relatively young channel, already it has given us a unique way toemphasize command messages. It answers a long-known need for a single repository for usefulresources for professional development, and it achieves this in a manner sustainable even by ourmeager staff. 15
  16. 16. LinkedIn: With the Global War on Terrorism winding to a close, and many of our Guardsmen returning home, there will be much attentionpaid to our efforts to garner employment opportunities for our returning Citizen-Soldiers. In thatlight, we created a Georgia National Guard LinkedIn group to better inform interested partiesabout job fairs, job openings, networking opportunities, and updates to the blog. We then linkedthe feed of Linkedin job posts to our Facebook as a tab, and then pointed to the LinkedIn page onboth our Professional Development Blog and the main website.We’ve synced this effort with our HRO and SPO, and cross-trained their staff to use the channelso that it has the potential for maximum impact. We also use the “LinkedIn Today” news featureto create a dynamic (fully automated) source of content linked to our blog, comprised ofindustry-related news and professional development tips. GooglePlus: The Georgia National Guard was one of the very first military organizations in the world to create an official Google plus brands page – Google Plus being, of course, the fastest growing social medium in history – having already attracted more than 62-million users in less than a year. Since that time, we have provided leadership within the PAO community on the channel’s use, andattempted to help the handful of military organizations on the channel to network by creating thefirst and only comprehensive military “circle” on Google Plus. In fact, of all state Guardagencies on Google Plus, Georgia has by far the largest following.We’ve used the channel to discuss some of the unique online outreach initiatives we’reundertaking – some of which have been mentioned in this very white paper. We also created twounique image sets, one of Georgia Guard iconography vectors, the other of all the GeorgiaGuardsman covers over the past 65 years. Both were a huge hit, inside the organization and out.Wikipedia:One of the challenges in military Public Affairs is finding a time- and cost-efficient means forlogging unit history. It isnt so much the actual logging of the history thats difficult, but ratherthe challenge of congruence and sustainability over time while trying to create and maintain aprimary source for such information. Weve found that Wikipedia offers an excellent platform tolog unit history and point to source documents, while at the same time offering a free flow ofinformation that doesnt inhibit unit historians as they seek to build upon pre-existing work.Whats more, we’ve set up e-mail alerts in the event that one of our pages gets edited – so weknow when to check the veracity of any new inclusions.At present, the Georgia National Guard, Georgia Department of Defense, Georgia ArmyNational Guard, Georgia Air National Guard, Georgia State Defense Force, all five of our ArmyGuard brigades, both of our Air Guard Wings, and each of our seven Air Guard geographicallyseparated units have Wikipedia pages. As we enter the annual report season, weve found thecooperative and social nature of Wikipedia fact exchange to be a vital asset. Not only can we 16
  17. 17. print these pages off at relevant media events in substitution for, or supplementation of,traditional fact sheets, but we can co-op real-time edits with unit historians as we build out thisyears annual report!The only real concerns here relate to version control and malicious edits. But insofar as we haveall our Wiki content backed up in Microsoft Word, and have e-mail alerts in place, those risksare severely mitigated. We also back up all our wiki content in a number of ways so that if theirserver crashes or their service ends for whatever reason, we still have all the work and material.The idea of using Wikipedia as a running log of unit headlines which, in turn, becomes unithistory is innovative and the potential is virtually limitless!Of course we also have standard, traditional one-pagers for the press, and we use them whenappropriate. But almost all of the messaging and data is the same as what weve provided in theunit histories/Wikis. Whats more, it seems the press is almost numb to the status quo PR tools(annual report, one-pagers, bios, etc.). For whatever reason, the wiki print-outs catch their eyeand their interest, and have been touted to us as "cool," "super useful," and "extremelyinnovative." Whats more, they know where to go if they want to easily pull (i.e. copy paste)relevant sections from the unit history – and they can cite the wiki article and/or see where werepulling the source data.Conclusion:There’s no question there is a verysmall handful of states out there withlarger social followings than Georgiaon this channel, or that. Yet, ourgrowth rate on the primary channels(Facebook and Twitter) far exceedsthat of every other state with a majorpresence – and we are using severalchannels that many of those stateshaven’t even touched. Certainly, in afield where the primary question thatvexes all public affairs professionalsis, “how do we reach our audience?”the Georgia Guard leads the way.When taken holistically, across allchannels, from head to toe, bow tostern, the Georgia National Guard’suse of social and new media in itsonline outreach is the most pervasive,effective, streamlined and novel of anystate Guard agency in the country. 17

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