West Point Military Academy and Social Media Networking

By Lillian Williams

Could your school or organization learn from the social media strategies of other institutions? Of course.

One thing is for certain: Governments, businesses and other entities are busy experimenting with social networking applications such as Facebook and Twitter, among others.  And for good reason.

Though relatively young phenomena, social networking sites offer huge marketing potential with global reach.  A recent survey shows that email is still the number one way that people regularly use the Internet, but a whopping 62 percent use the Internet also to connect to social media.

How are educational organizations and other institutions responding?

Here’s an example: Next time you’re on YouTube, check out the social media presence of West Point, the four-year, degree-granting U.S. military academy in West Point, New York.  eCampus News  recently put the spotlight on West Point.

Like other sectors of society, the military has become aggressive in its move to shape image through social media.

In fact, last year West Point ranked within the top ten on a list of Top Social Media Colleges. This list refers to how well a school engages audiences on social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, and other outlets.  The top three schools on list were John Hopkins, Harvard University, and University of Notre Dame.

Besides YouTube, West Point drives audiences to stories about individual soldiers on its RSS feeds.  The feeds contain first-person chronicles of everything from a soldier’s ride at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to visits to high schools.  In another  example, a West Point junior posted a link to a short video-taped bio about himself.

And then there’s Facebook. A military without Facebook?  Absolutely not.

West Point has it very own set of official Facebook Fan pages, operated by the public affairs department.

“Every academic office, and we have 13 academic departments, has a Facebook fan page to share with their specific audience about the things that they’re doing,”  according to Major Olivia Nunn, West Point’s social media chief, as quoted  in a March 22 article published by eCampus News.

Then, there’s YouTube.

Let’s take a closer look at West Point’s YouTube strategy.

On the upper right hand side of the YouTube page is a description of West Point, including where it’s located–about 50 miles north of New York City. In that short blurb, the audience also reads about the academy’s self-described core values–duty, honor and country.  A Web link points to more information.

“On YouTube, the West Point Channel was started by a soldier of mine, Sergeant Alexandria Corneiro,” said Nunn, as quoted in the aforementioned eCampus News article.

“She came up with the idea of wanting to provide a means of communicating with our audiences and giving what we say is an “Insider’s Look” to West Point. She created the channel on YouTube and created the show called The Point. You could see an evolution of our show if you go and click on  The Point from the first episode to the most current episode,” Nunn added.

What caught my attention recently was a video that appeared near the top of the YouTube page in March, 2012. It features a talk by Paul Bucha, a decorated Vietnam war veteran and recipient of the Medal of Honor. He is a master stump speaker.

No doubt that West Point has a huge archive packed with speeches. So why did West Point select this particular video to spotlight?  After viewing the video, it’s simple to see why.

Bucha uses vivid storytelling–a tried-and-true method–to drive home a point.  It’s an excellent speech to display on the military’s YouTube channel.

Take a listen:

The take-away from West Point’s social media campaign?

Beef up your social media presence. Start experimenting. Like the military, recognize the social media enthusiasts within your own organization.  These employees might have good ideas about how to showcase your organization’s strengths, as in the case of West Point.

Another message is to offer plenty of video within your social media platforms.  Some marketing experts believe that video causes visitors to linger longer–and to interact more–on a website.

In the case of West Point’s video presentation, the social media audience could see the speaker’s expressions, and could hear the excitement in his voice, as he spoke about core military values.

Again, Bucha’s video underscores a key question: how to select an effective speech to spotlight on your media site. This speech made the point about core military values by offering a series of short, vivid, first-person stories. These are the type of stories that stick with an audience. Does your organization have employees who could tell stories about core values?

Again, could your school or organization learn from these strategies?

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