U.S. Army steps into networking world with Facebook profile
April 22, 2009
Anyone wishing to "friend" the U.S. Army now can, thanks to a new Facebook page and blog.
The Facebook page, which launched last Thursday, already has nearly 3,000 fans. Yelps of "Hooah!" litter its wall.
"In just a weekend the Facebook site has become a vibrant community," said Lindy Kyzer, a public affairs specialist in the online and social media division of Army public affairs. "We have soldiers, spouses, retirees, family members, even a grandmother whose granddaughter just signed up."
Both the Facebook page and new blog, called "Army Live," are meant to allow people inside and outside the service to speak informally about the Army. The Facebook page asks viewers to comment on such topics as "Why did you join the Army?" Or "Who is your favorite noncommissioned officer?" It also features podcasts, photos, links to other Army-related Web sites and even a way to follow the Army on Twitter.
"It’s a one-stop shop for people to connect to us," Kyzer said.
But how do they plan on controlling the blogosphere, known for its snarky, merciless and often anonymous comments?
Kyzer said both sites will be monitored to make certain they stay family friendly.
But Kyzer also recognizes that with social media it’s impossible to stay in control.
"You’re accepting some risk," she said. "You lose control of the message when you give the message to the constituency. We know it’s not all going to be positive."
But she hopes that the favorable comments will scrub away the negative ones.
Parents of soldiers, many of whom are not as involved with the Army community as a spouse, are already posting messages of support on the Facebook site.
"These folks are sending their sons and daughters off to war," Kyzer said. "They often look to virtual gathering places to connect."
One such message from military mom Debbie Proctor reads: "my son is in Afg. — just a little more than a month into his tour — Infantry Airborne. A big Hoooah to all the troops — and their families."
Like many businesses and organizations, the Army has been a little late in reaching people through social networking sites; blogs have been around since the early 1990s and Facebook has more than 200 million users. Kyzer said if the Army had not jumped in now, then other people would have filled the void.
"We understand that we can’t let that much time go by in the future," she said. "These are places that people go to get information, and we need to be engaged."
Brittany Grow, wife of Capt. Mark Grow, of the 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, said she would check out the new Web site.
"I think it would be nice for the soldiers, for them to see that people are supporting them," she said. "And for the spouses to see that people are supporting their husbands."
In the end, how many fans would Kyzer like to see on the Facebook page?
"One million," she said. It is the same number of Twitter followers actor Ashton Kutcher recently reached, beating out the cable news channel CNN.
"If Ashton Kutcher can do it, we can do it," she said. "This is the U.S. Army."