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Department of Defense joins Executive branch in Web 2.0 evolution of outreach
Considering all the recent news centered on President Barack Obama’s social media makeover of the Executive Department—with official sites setup on Facebook, Twitter, and more—one might be misled into thinking that the young president’s foray into social media is a rare experiment for the U.S. government.
In fact, the Department of Defense too has organized its own army of social media pages on popular sites Delicious, Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo, Flickr, and YouTube, all as new and advanced venues to enhance recruiting methods, according to an article published yesterday by the American Forces Press Service.
Instead of simply placing ads on sites that might be frequented by the Army’s key target audience—18 to 24-year olds—Army recruiters took the next step by actually creating accounts on the most popular social networking sites, establishing a total and cohesive web presence that, the government hopes, will draw in new recruits.
Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Arata, Director of the Online and Social Media Division of the U.S. Army, has been working since January of this year to build up this social media presence, according to a Facebook blog post last month.
And their efforts may already be making a difference.
Though recent reports attribute a good year in recruiting to the failing economy and lower casualty rates in Iraq, no doubt some of the rising numbers should be accounted to social media efforts. The Army’s MySpace page alone counts over 90,000 friends—connections that could have only helped recruiting.
Furthermore, as the American Forces article explains, the Army’s social ventures not only serve as advertisement for recruiting, but also provide U.S. citizens with a clearer view into the life of the ordinary soldier.
Before, Army recruitment advertising usually involved an incredibly dramatic 30-second TV spot with the recruiting Web site displayed at the end. Now, through social sites like Facebook and Twitter, the interaction goes multiple ways, bringing together officers, soldiers, their relatives, and potential new recruits in a rich discussion of the Army news and life in the service.
“The more people know about the Army, and the more they know about the reality of the Army, the better they will be equipped to make that decision to join,” said Suzanne Nagel, Army Accessions Command’s media and Web chief for Army advertising.
Once again, one-way advertising bows out under pressure from social media, which continually paves the way for uniting people with similar interests.
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What is Twitter?
Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from Twitter.com, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests.
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Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes.
We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.
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We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.