The Military’s use of Social Media: Facebook Focus (Part 1 of 3)

Blog series originally posted at DK Web Consulting.

The growth of social media is evident even amongst the ranks of government. The five branches of the US Military have been social media champions and there is much to learn from their efforts as we see in this report.

This is the first installment of three in a series about the Military’s use of Facebook.[1] There are four other series that focus on Government Facebook use including Health and Human Services (HHS), Hispanic oriented, Other Government pages, and a final Comparison Report which compares the use of Facebook among all these segments of the government. Together these five reports comprise the entire 2012 US Government Facebook Use Report.


The goal of this report series is to provide government agencies with a bench-marking tool so they may know how their own social media channels compare within their own branch of government as well as among all government social media properties. This tool may be used by government agencies with existing social media channels as well as those looking to launch for the first time.

US Military Facebook pages: By the Numbers

All five branches of the military— Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard—have made their way to social media, and built a significant presence in the interim. Joining these on Facebook are corresponding Reserve and recruitment pages as well as fan pages for other sectors of the military, such as the Department of Defense, US Department of Justice (DOJ) and numerous fan pages for veteran affairs. In total, there are 14 military Facebook pan pages with an average of approximately 650,000 fans at the time of our research.

During the eight week period in which data was researched, the number of fans grew by 17.3% (95,833) per page. According to Facebook’s new “Talking About” data, an average of 3.78% (24,514) of fans are talking about the respective fan pages—8.95% growth since the original calculation in January. The large growth of fan engagement may be correlated to content creation. Military pages average between 3 to 4 posts per day (3.9), roughly 19 posts per week including weekends when 92.9% of pages posted content. With relatively active pages not withstanding, fan engagement (meaning those who like, share or comment on posts) averages just .12%, or 680 fan interactions per post. How did the data pan out? Let’s delve deeper to find out which pages had the most output and reciprocal engagement.

The US Department of Defense Facebook page

The US Department of Defense Facebook page

Who’s talking about Military Agencies?

The number of people ‘talking about’ a page indicates the number of fans creating stories about said page, including: sharing, liking, commenting, answering questions or responding to an event.[2] Based on these criteria, an average of 3.78% of fans (24,514) are actively talking about each military page. This was the highest percentage of all 4 government segments analyzed, and nearly double the talking about figure for HHS agencies. Since we began analyzing the data in January, the number of people talking about the military pages grew 8.95%. Engagement of fans on a per post level, however, is comparatively lower.

As described in the blog post on Health and Human Services (HHS) Facebook use, the difference between engagements per post, which is manually counted, and ‘talking about’, which is computed by Facebook, can be partly explained by the amount of fans engaging in existing stories versus those creating stories. According to the data, an average of 2,039 fans (0.12% of total) fans of US Military pages (2,039) engage with each post on these 14 Facebook pages.

The US Navy ranks highest of all HHS agencies in percentage of fans ‘talking about’ their page

The US Navy ranks highest of all HHS agencies in percentage of fans ‘talking about’ their page

What are US Military agencies talking about?

The most commonly used content among all military agencies is photos. The Marines official page publishes numerous photo albums, including Fan of the Week pictures and Corp Top Shots of the men and women at war. The Veterans Benefits Administration – U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VBA) also makes use of the photo tab by posting event photos from various outreach programs. Though the latter is not as active as say the Marines or other branches of the military, photos appear to be the unifying medium across all tabs; they are easy to share and a tangible way to connect with fans.

Military agencies use Facebook to disseminate news and information about their respective agencies. Recent developments, media clips and features, recruitment information, outreach/events, and events happening at camps and bases around the world. Photos appear to generate the most fan engagement, both from fans and the page itself. The US Air Force often posts photos and asks fans to caption the image, a strategy that has proved successful in the past. A recent photo-caption post generated as much as 120 shares, 1,480 “likes” and 2,602 comments.

The US Air Force often uses images to spark engagement on their page

The US Air Force often uses images to spark engagement on their page

Your Thoughts

Based on the findings one can infer that fans are interested in following official government pages such as those belonging to the US Military. However, becoming a fan does not guarantee participation. Do you follow a government agency on Facebook? Do you participate regularly? If not, what content do you think would motivate you to engage? We’d like to hear your thoughts on the Facebook presence of US Military agencies.

Want the Full Report?

Due to size restrictions, we only cover several of the highlights of the report on this 3 part blog series. If you would like the full complimentary report which includes all analysis in one PDF file please provide your name and email to “info(at)dkwebconsulting.com“ and you will receive it by email.

[1] All analysis was performed between January and March of 2012.

[2] For this study the most recent three posts were analyzed that had been on the page for over 24 hours.

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