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Missouri National Guard reaches out through internet-based social media
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Sept. 28, 2009) — When the Missouri National Guard delved into the world of social media in February by launching Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and MySpace pages all within a single month, no one could predict the impact the sites would have on the way the Guard did business as usual.

The one thing everyone was certain of, however, was that the online media movement was much too big to ignore.

“Utilizing new media is a great way to spread our messages,” said adjutant general Brig. Gen. Stephen Danner. “It is important that the Missouri National Guard has a presence in the same place that our members are.”

And with more than a 300 million active users on Facebook alone — half of whom log in to the site at least once a day — Danner knew the site, and others like it, were worth exploring.

Now, thanks to constant news updates and extensive photo and video coverage, the Guard is reaching a whole new audience of soldiers, families and community supporters.

Facebook and MySpace, which host the bulk of the Guard’s online photos, often serve as discussion and support areas for soldiers, their friends and their families, as users pore over pictures from trainings and community events. The two sites also feature blogs, videos and a constantly updated news stream.

While Facebook and MySpace excel because of their many options, Twitter stands out for its minimalism. The site, which asks users to answer the question “What are you doing?” in 140 characters or less, serves as a straightforward news outlet for the Guard. Now, the Guard can quickly update users on everything from deployments to suicide awareness and prevention initiatives.

The final piece of the Guard’s social media puzzle is its own channel on YouTube, which features supportive messages from legislators, coverage of change of command ceremonies and footage from soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

Despite the constant stream of information the Guard provides to online users, the conversation is far from one-sided.

“These new outlets like Facebook and Twitter are changing the way our public affairs office does business,” said Capt. Tammy Spicer, Missouri National Guard public affairs officer. “Before, we were talking to our audience. Now, we’re having a dialogue — they give us feedback and let us know what they would like to see more of.”

The presence of the Guard online, as well many of its highest ranking members, has facilitated a much more open relationship with the public. Now, citizens can not only access the Guard’s news and information, but also have the ability to respond directly to its source, forging a new connection between the Missouri National Guard and the people it serves.

While the long-term impact of this new dialogue isn’t apparent, some are already finding benefits in the arrangement.

“In today’s world of instant information, these Web sites allow potential applicants to view what the National Guard is all about,” said Staff Sgt. James Rudd, a Missouri National Guard recruiter in the Poplar Bluff area. “They can see everything from what we do in our daily lives to the benefits of being a member. That access helps potential applicants decide whether the Guard is the right decision for them.”

Despite the Web sites’ success in aiding recruiting efforts, the true benefit of the Guard’s social media initiative may be yet to be seen. Many believe the technology will shine most during the state’s next emergency or natural disaster, giving the public and media outlets instant access to real-time updates from the field.

Until then, the Guard will continue to expand its audience, drawing from a much more diverse group of users than the tech-savvy 20-somethings that used to dominate the social media landscape. With users 35 and older making up Facebook’s fastest growing demographic, social media websites have become true online communities, connecting people from around the state and around the globe.

The Missouri National Guard social media sites are at:

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