Defense Industry Must Embrace Social Media

Article excerpt

Defense contractors are recognizing the value of engaging in social media. Online magazines and blogs--until recently considered second rate--are now becoming critical reading matter. Traditional media continue to lose readers and viewers at a rapid rate. Thanks to the vast proliferation of blogs, wilds and YouTube, anyone can now become an instant news crew.

That's why success as defense communicators, civilian contractors and military leaders--depends upon the ability to keep up with, and even stay a step ahead of, a growing cadre of tech-savvy journalists and bloggers. We have to know not only what they want, but how and when they want it delivered.

The National Defense University recently acknowledged the importance of social networking as a vital tool for maintaining relationships throughout both the Defense Department and its partners, including both contractors and the media. Fears of cyber-attacks, the university found, should not deter the use of social networking tools.

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Boosting the public's literacy on military weapons systems has been made easier by the introduction of sophisticated personal technologies. Explaining the need for continual upgrades to military technology is simpler now that the public has become accustomed to successive generations of personal computers with new features and capabilities. Military technology that once seemed abstract is more readily understood in today's marketplace, such as GPS systems.

Still, maintaining public support is a tougher challenge today. An abundance of on- and off-line media outlets means that the public is, at once, more informed and more critical of defense spending, especially during an economic downturn.

This is where social networking comes in.

Defense communicators are expanding their reach beyond the industry, military, trade and business publications. There are various blogs that aggregate stories from other sources and originate their own. Easy access to defense-oriented blogs has created a growing international audience for military issues, with expert commentary from civilians and military personnel, alike. As their influence grows, social networks will become increasingly used by defense communicators. Indeed, an Israel Defense Force official recently held a press conference on Twitter.

But Twitter will be used for many more purposes in the future. Communicators can use it to monitor discussions about their companies or services. They can use Twitter to set up interviews with executives or answer requests from reporters who are researching information for stories.

The best part of social media is the way they foster engagement and dialogue. Though the audience may be varied, it consists of people with strong interests. They, in turn, can influence others whose attention to defense issues is more casual. Social networks tend to take an informal and sometimes downright irreverent tone. …

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