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Mark is CEO and head strategist at Working Three, a strategic digital consultancy that specialises in commercialising social media activity. He works with some of Australia's, and the world's, largest and most innovative companies to create a clear picture of the new market forces, and business model disruption, being driven by social media.

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Hearts and minds: Winning the social media war the US Army way

Published 03 April 2013 07:34, Updated 10 April 2013 07:32

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Hearts and minds: Winning the social media war the US Army way

While written for a military audience, the US Army’s social media handbook has a wealth of useful tips for anyone wanting to build a presence in social media. Photo: US Army

Social media has been mainstream long enough for best practice examples to be widely available. One you may not have thought of is The US Army Social Media Handbook. It is a fantastic starting point for those getting into social media. Here are its top four lessons.

Have purpose

The handbook’s most important message is simple – have a focus when jumping into social media: “Determine what you plan to achieve with your social media presence. Make sure you have a way forward and a set of goals. Developing a social media outreach plan requires a lot of thought, so make sure you know how you plan to use social media to communicate.”

Don’t jump into tactics until you have a strategy

It requires a brilliant strategy to win a war and social media is no different. “The purpose of using social media is to place your unit’s messages in the social media space. But in order to keep people coming back to the pages, units should develop a strategy that mixes messages with items the audience finds interesting. Language should be conversational, fun and engaging.” Replace “unit” with the word “brand”, and the general applicability of this thought is clear.

How to avoid failing

An extension of “develop a strategy” – but it is really worth highlighting. The guidebook states: “Most of social media failures can be attributed to organisations rushing into social media before determining what exactly the organisation aims to achieve with social media platforms. Using social media effectively is a process and it requires strategy, goals, manpower and foresight.”

Don’t avoid social media in a crisis – use it!

Contrary to popular belief, social media does not cause issues – it allows them to surface quickly – so use social media platforms to your advantage. The US Army says “using social media to communicate with stakeholders during a crisis has proven to be effective due to its speed, reach and direct access”.

It’s worth reading the full guidebook. It will help you better understand how social media is all about winning hearts and minds.

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