The Marine General "Gets" Social Media


MarinePride88A The best quote from the aima (Atlanta Interactive Marketing Assoc) June meeting last night was from Carl Warner, JWT/Atlanta who told us what a Marine general had to say about social media.

  • "Web 2.0 is undisciplined theater."

Seems the agency had briefed the General (the Marines are a client) on social media. My sense is that Carl was a little disappointed in the General's response. Not me! I would have jumped up and hugged the General (Is it against protocol to hug a Marine general?) and said, "Yes! Sir, that was brilliant! You get it. Social media is undisciplined. It is messy. It is coloring outside of the lines."

I would have then expanded our discussion to what are "social media conversations." We'd probably talk about in social media conversations, as in any conversation, there are the people who initiate the discussion and those who respond. Conversations (including videos, photos and podcasts) that are started by civilians might not be nice and neat. In fact they may even be passionate. Who knows who will say what or when or how .. yes, General - very undisciplined. But when you think about it most conversations with friends are spontaneous and don't follow predetermined rules (except perhaps a few rules of etiquette).

Then I'd ask the General to look at social media conversations from the view of an organization or a brand or in this case the Marines. I'm betting he'd be pleased to know there can be .. should be .. some structure to participating in the conversation. That means planning. Strategy is something that I'm sure the good General understands well. 

We'd go on to talk about the conversations that take place in the public "parks and spaces" of the internet say on Twitter or Facebook or MySpace versus those that happen in his digital home .. say a blog or community built by the Marines. Although house rules can't be imposed in public gathering places, just as you have expectations for guests visiting your home or office, it is acceptable to have a few guidelines for your online visitors. I'd point him to this post where he could see some great examples of corporate blogging/social media guidelines.

Along the way I'm sure we'd discuss how a strategic direction for his Marines who participate in online conversations would begin with some guidelines. We'd talk about the "brand values" and the love that the Marines have for the Marines. We'd talk about how even in a world that appears to be chaotic there can be some structure and at the same time authenticity. We'd talk about why the Marines would even want to be part of this untamed world.

I'm betting we'd come to the same conclusions that many business owner, CMOs, brand managers have when it comes to social media. At the end of the post or tweet or podcast or vlog or social network it's about the relationships we build and nurture with our customers which leads to achieving the purpose of the business or non profit or the Marines. To bring that full circle .. that can not be done without knowing where you are going. Yes, General the social world is indeed undisciplined but if you use social media as a marketing strategy that becomes more manageable with a strategic overlay.Make+Love+Not+War


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Great post! I'm sure the General would both appreciate the hug and the conversation. However, while most of us work 40, 50 or maybe 60 hours a week, a soldier is a soldier 24/7/365. And the risk of them sharing something that should not be shared is very different than it is for those of us who are civilians. Their disclosures could result in both political and military disclosures that could do harm. Undisciplined talk from our military services is dangerous.

That said, with strict guidelines in place, backed up and codified by the military code of justice, social media is a medium that can be adopted.

Posted by: Lewis Green on Jun 25, 2009 2:18:45 PM

Lewis - I appreciate your comments and reminder that for a Marine (or anyone in the armed services) it's critical to understand what can be discussed But with guidelines in place (as you should for any enterprise social media initiative) authenticiy, personality and a great conversation can occur!

Posted by: Toby on Jun 25, 2009 2:29:57 PM

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