U.S. Army recruiting by tweeting

Ronny Kerr · July 28, 2009 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/999

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.

Go Army!

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 likeRay Odierno 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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Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

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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There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within Twitter.com, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on Virginamerica.com that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


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We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

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.