Army needs Social Media help…from civilians?

June 9, 2011

Today, there was a great article in Wired.  It was about the Army’s proposal to hire Social Media experts for Afghanistan operations.  This was not a Wikileak; it is a real request for proposal for civilian public relations experts.  (The request is also for well-qualified Dari and Pashtu speakers to participate in the Social Media mission–thumbs up to getting strong linguist for this program.)

I guess I shouldn’t be totally surprised.

Heck, you can read about the Department of Defense spending $384.4 million on Strategic Communications in 2011 or about the billion plus spent on Information Operations for the past few years in a report by the Center for International Media Assistance.  For those keeping score…$384.4 million is enough dough to pay tuition for 50,000 high school graduates to attend college this fall.  The Politico reported that the DOD actually requested $988 million for communications funding for 2010…it didn’t pass.

The reason why this Afghanistan Social Media decision pains me so much is because the minimum qualifications that the Army is looking for–bachelor’s degree and Secret security clearance— is equal or even less than the qualifications of the 150+ public affairs officers we have on active duty.  And of those public affairs officers, several of them have earned Army-funded graduate degrees from top schools like Georgetown the official grad school for Army public affairs officers, UNC-Chapel Hill, Middle Tennessee State, and USC’s Annenberg School. And we even send officers and sergeants to work at Google each year.

Are none of them good enough to run a Social Media program in Afghanistan?  Heck, who’s running these seemingly successful sites right now?  See them here, here, and here.

If you’re still reading this post you’ve probably come to conclusion that I’m courageous or crazy…perhaps both.

Don’t get me wrong here, I agree there is a great need for continued investment in online communications and engaging audiences domestic and international through Social Media. I just think this should be done by training people already in uniform to accomplish these goals.  Really, by the time most photos, tweets, and blog posts are approved by the layers of strategic communications folks at big headquarters in Kabul, Baghdad, Kandahar, it’s a bit too late or too far removed from much of the populace we are trying to influence–many of them are illiterate or don’t have access to the internet.  Meanwhile, the terrorists and Taliban types are able to cause mayhem and make it go viral because they post from the point of origin–often on mobile phones.Soldiers online

I propose the Army purchases smart phones and commercial internet for their public affairs staffs at the brigade combat team level and arm them with the same communications tools as the terrorists.

Last time I checked, a 3G iPhone runs about $200 $49.  If you bought one for every 100 troops in Afghanistan (about one per company-sized unit), the total costs would be about $200,000  $49,000 + usage plans.  The troops already know how to use smart phones & Facebook.  After developing a policy for what to post and battle drills for when to post, I assure you a positive and tangible impact will be made in our information war.

Where there’s no cell coverage…use a Bgan antenna.

Ideally, we’d shift to training more Afghan journalists so they can tell the story of their country and of their security forces through their own lens.  Developing skills for local reporters should be long-term goal.

Well, I’ve said my $0.02.  I’m not critical of the mission, just the method.  I believe we have people, Soldiers & Department of the Army Civilians, who are ready, willing, and able to accomplish the communications goals for the Afghan War.  As an added bonus, after Army folks complete this task they will retain the experience for future operations.  Seems like a cent-sible solution to me.

Honest two-way communication is the best to build relationships and influence people.  I believe in the Defense Information School’s motto:  Strength through Truth

I figure I can’t get fired for this post, however, I might just get orders to Afghanistan. I’m ok with that.

DISCLAIMER:  Views expressed here are the authors own and not necessarily the views of the Army or Department of Defense. Nor is the post an official statement of the U.S. Army.  Just one guys opinion.

10 things I can’t do from my desk

July 31, 2009

Not much changed since the last post. From my work desk in Iraq, I’m still restricted from engaging audiences on social media sites. Despite yet another article indicating that Social Media engagement is a priority for the Army.

Here’s a list of things I can’t do from my work desk that the DOD wants me to do–though not from my desk, I suppose:

1.) Download the Army’s official design templates for Web sites and Social Media

2.) Listen to the DOD Bloggers’ Roundtable–by the way you should listen to the BRT on August 4, 11:00 a.m. EST for an update on the Advisory and Assistance Brigade mission COMPLETE

3.) Post on my brigade’s blog

4.) Post tweets on my brigade’s Twitter feed @4_1AD

5.) Interact with the over 2,300 Fans who support the 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division on Facebook

6.) Visit any of the Social Media sites run by my higher headquarters MNC-I, CENTCOM

Our goal at Multinational Corps-Iraq is to maximize our use of Social Media to inform you about our missions and the people who accomplish them. We’re striving to create a dialogue with you. We will do that by sharing news, information, insights and conversation with the people who support our organization and operations in Iraq. –MNC-I

7.) Conduct spot media assessment on a number of different Web sites. Cookies, schmookies

8.) Read any blogs that are not on a .mil domain

9.) Share videos, photos, and audio products with others because access to USB ports is blocked…I wonder how civilian news agencies operate? Do they require reporters to use personal equipment and run down to the local coffee shop to access the internet to file stories?

10.) Upload videos produced by Army broadcasters to DVIDS via FTP–blocked

As a Soldier we improvise and adapt where possible. However, all the 100mph tape and 550 cord can’t help me access Social Media.

*venting complete*

Oh, if I’ve missed your phone call at my desk, it’s because I’m at the MWR internet center down the street writing this blog post. Sorry.

Update: Looks like the debate over Web 2.0 access is at the highest levels of the DoD. The Pentagon’s top public affairs executive is an active participant and proponent for Social Networking.

Testing Twitterfeed

December 30, 2008

Just an experiment.

Maiysha nominated for a Grammy

December 4, 2008

Good news!  Maiysha, who I blogged about several months ago–before her album was released–was just nominated for a Grammy in the “Best Urban/Alternative Performance” category.

Her song “Wanna Be”: is really great.  I highly recommend her album “This Much is True”…and you should know that Majorman seldom recommends entire albums.  The only others that come to mind are, Petersburg, Virginia native, Trey SongzI gotta make it” and anything by the U.S. Army Band.

Link to “Wanna Be” official music video here.

Maiysha’s competition for the award–personally, I think, she is peerless:

Best Urban/Alternative Performance nods go to:

Beautiful Maiysha

Beautiful Maiysha

“Say Goodbye To Love” – Kenna
“Wanna Be” – Maiysha
“Be OK” – Chrisette Michele Featuring
“Many Moons” – Janelle Monae
“Lovin You (Music)” – Wayna Featuring Kokayi

As a Social Media junkie, I suspect Maiysha’s album sales would be higher if she actually followed the people, like me, who follow her on Twitter (As of 4 Dec there are only 63 followers).  Maybe she doesn’t want our feedback?  Maybe she just needs a PR person who understands that in order to be successful on Web 2.0 you need to have a two-way conversation with your audience. More Twitter strategies here. Hmmmm…time will tell.

UPDATE: Not sure if she’s read my blog…but as of this afternoon she follows all of her followers on Twitter! *pats self on back*

UPDATE2: She Direct Messaged me to acknowledge the Twittering tip. Cool!


December 3, 2008

My blog hit 10,000 total views!  (I started blogging this summer) Thanks to everybody who’s stopped by.  I’ll have to post more frequently.

Tips for new bloggers:

1.)   Target your tags…think of how people might search for a subject

2.)  Post at least once a week (I need to follow my own advice here)

3.)  Comment on other peoples blogs who write about similar subjects

4.)  Cross-post a link to your blog on your Twitter, Facebook and other social networking accounts

5.)  Make your blog informative and support your thoughts/assertions with links to other blogs and news articles

6.)  Register your blog with technorati

More blogging tips here, here, and here

Twitter jitters

October 28, 2008

An Army Intelligence report posted on WIRED Magazine’s defense blog recently identified Microblogging website Twitter this way:

“Twitter has also become a social activism tool for socialists, human rights groups, communists, vegetarians, anarchists, religious communities, atheists, political enthusiasts, hacktivists and others to communicate with each other and to send messages to broader audiences,” the report said.

Hacktivists refers to politically motivated computer hackers.

“Twitter is already used by some members to post and/or support extremist ideologies and perspectives,” the report said. (Source:

Now, I’ve not read the full report, but this is absolutely ridiculous.  Perhaps the authors of the report are not aware that The President of the United States uses Twitter to communicate messages.  Or even closer to home the Army’s Soldier’s Media Center uses Twitter too!  How scary. *teeth chattering*

I’m no expert on terrorists threats, however, it seems that Twitter would not be a really good method to communicating.  A better site for the stuff the Army report talks about is Pownce or maybe Plurk. Though I suspect they could use walkie-talkies, cellphones, or horn honks too.  Hopefully, someday soon the Army will have a much better understanding and integration of Web 2.0.  There is positive news here and here.

A discussion with lots of comments on this subject hereFunny twitter cartoon here.

Blogging while brown

July 29, 2008

While visiting the Jack & Jill Politics blog I read about the Blogging While Brown (BWB) conference that was held in Atlanta this weekend.

The following paragraph describes the origin and purpose of the BWB conference.  From BWB official website:

Whether it’s fighting injustice , debating racism in the media, serving as a new technology underground railroad of information or celebrating our best and brightest, bloggers of color are a vital and viable part of the blogosphere who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions on a number of subjects. Their readers are willing to mobilize for change. Bloggers of color are at an inflection point in the continued development of the blogosphere.
To that end, the Blogging While Brown Conference was born. Blogging While Brown is the first international conference for bloggers of color. For the first time this new generation of activists, entrepreneurs and new media content creators will step out from behind their keyboards and meet in person.

Needless to say I wasn’t invited nor aware of the BWB conference, before today.  Perhaps because I’m not among the “best and brightest” of bloggers of color?  I find it interesting that the BWB conference occurred the same weekend as the UNITY ’08.  In the future it would be nice to see BWB gain more clout and work with larger groups of journalists like NABJ or NAHJ.  Though it’s possible the BWB doesn’t see itself as affiliated with the standard world of old media?

The founder of BWB has several videos from the conference posted on her blog. I recommend the one from the bloggers who run Black Web 2.0.  Interestingly enough, Web 2.0 works the same way for black people as it does for others…shhhhh…don’t tell anyone.

I did find it interesting that many of the BWB participants were heavy users of Twitter (if you’re wondering “what the heck is Twitter?” click here).  I enjoy Twitter too, though my feeds are closed to the public.

Well next year there will be another Blogging While Brown conference.  If there’s not a scheduling conflict maybe I’ll attend.  I see myself as a blogger who happens to be brown.  Part of the concept of Naked Conversations is that a person can blog anonymously and say whatever they want because “no one wrote the official blogging rule book” it seems that BWB caters to potential weblebrities like those listed here, here, or here.  The fact none of the web celebrities are brown is a good reason to continue the BWB conference.

Me, I’m just a regular guy blogging for bloggings sake.  What about you?

Factcheck: The military embraces blogging

July 20, 2008

RUMOR:  The military does not allow servicemembers to blog.

FACT:  The military embraces blogging and even runs a few blogs on the .mil domain (See examples of official blogs, here, here, here, here)

Military bloggers provide the Naked Conversations that much of the general public can benefit from.

I found it really interesting that my Social Media classroom blog run by Professor Garrett Graff is linked to a large Military blog.

I agree with Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, IV that the military should embrace blogging (and other Social Media).  Caldwell was previously Senior Spokesperson for Multi-National Force–Iraq (MNF-I).  His current duties include serving as Commandant of the Command & General Staff College.  He has published a policy letter that encourages blogging on .mil and commercial websites.

Caldwell’s views on the importance of internet/social media (as outlined in the policy letter):

Interactive internet activities are an essential part of our responsibilities to provide information to the public, usher in a culture of change within our Army’s officer Leadership, Development, and Education and support military operations.  Leaders within the Army need to understand the power of the internet and leverage as many communications means as possible to communicate what the CAC is doing and more importantly to “Share the Story” of those serving in uniform and highlight the incredible sacrifices they and their families are making.

Here is one of the blogs from a classroom of Army Majors.

In fact the Army has accounts at twitter, youtube, and flickr.  Though they don’t have many followers, subscribers, contacts, respectively; consider these sites a sign that Senior Leaders are embracing social media.

UPDATE 1:  I just found this link where Pete Geren, Secretary of the Army says:

Senior Army leaders have fallen behind the breakneck development of cheap digital communications including cell phones, digital cameras and Web 2.0 Internet sites such as blogs and Facebook, Army Secretary Pete Geren said at a trade conference on July 10. That helps explain how “just one man in a cave that’s hooked up to the Internet has been able to out-communicate the greatest communications society in the history of the world — the United States”.