Hearing the name ‘United States Marine Corps’ may conjure up words like “elite,” “tradition,” and “warrior,” but the Marine Corps’ reach expands far beyond the real-life battlefield. Every day, the Marine Corps is engaged in a battle for the hearts and minds of Millennial youth within the social media sphere.
The Marine Corps has been leading the way in innovation and pioneering new forms of communication and engagement with Millennials to accomplish their recruiting goals for almost a decade now. This year, the Marine Corps reached a new milestone when it reached over 3 million Facebook ‘likes,’ making it the largest government brand on the most popular social media network – even reaching more fans than the White House.
From a marketing perspective, the Marine Corps brand challenge is not your typical ‘purchase’ behavior proposition. It is not selling soda or a cool new device; rather, it’s a change of lifestyle, and a chance to become an elite warrior.
Despite the fact that the Marine Corps has a tougher sell, they are still able to engage this core audience and make a significant impact, mainly by engaging Millennials in authentic conversations via social media. In a time when brands are vying for the attention of fragmented and over-stimulated audiences, the Marine Corps has developed a system of building and sustaining relationships with their audience in the digital ecosystem through a combination of community management, listening, analytics and local/mobile partnerships.
As one of the first brands on MySpace, the Marine Corps showcased its strong communications ability in the social media and has remained at the forefront of innovation within the social media space since establishing a Facebook presence in 2007.
Every week the Marine Corps receives approximately 15,000 pieces of content including pictures, posts, stories and videos across its owned social properties. That translates to over 1 million pieces of user-generated content uploaded every year. In addition, the Marine Corps averages 2.7+ million daily page impressions, which is over 303+ million total page impressions to date.
Like other major brands such as Nike, Red Bull and Warby Parker, the Marine Corps has relied on a set of guiding principles to manage large and interactive communities. Here are some best practices that guide building a robust Facebook brand presence – the Marine Corps way:
Ductus Exemplo, “Lead by Example’
Scale your brand as your community grows
The motto of Officer Candidates School (OCS), Ductus Exemplo describes the level of training required for future Marine Corps Officers as they ultimately lead and guide the Marines that serve under them. As the Marine Corps community grew into the millions, the ability to target niche audiences became limited. The brand decided to scale the Facebook community by aggregating over 40+ local level Marine Corps pages. Providing training across the United States to local-level Marines allowed the national brand to lead by example and reach audiences at a more targeted level.
Strategic Warrior Mindset
Maintain order in social media chaos
Marines are trained to act as strategic warriors who are at all times focused, alert and in control during any mission. Through content calendars, crisis processes, escalation plans and response mechanisms, the Marine Corps maintains an organized approach to the mass of social media conversation that occurs on a daily basis. Being strategy experts in conflict mirrors the Marine Corps’ ability to understand chaos and respond strategically via social media.
First To Fight
Unlike any other military branch, the Marine Corps is prepared and ready for any situation in six hours. This ability to respond rapidly to any global crisis sets them apart. The key to building and continuing relationships with users requires the ability to respond rapidly to comment/questions/concerns. Similar to the Marine Corps ability to be the ‘First to Fight’ anywhere in the world, in the social media space the Marine Corps manages a nimble response program for all social media platforms.
Whether your brand is trying to reach three million or three thousand, the foundation of any successful and sustainable community is having an expert understanding of your target audience.
For the Marine Corps, that has meant a constantly evolving communication style based on millennial behavior. Most recently the Marine Corps has developed two strategies that are focused on being experts on their audience: First, partnering with a major national researcher to develop a campaign, Toward the Sounds of Chaos, that hones in on the changing shift in millennial aspirations in the 21st century and secondly, a first-of-its-kind YouTube brand channel that uses a Pandora-like algorithm to serve up a customized experience to each user. Both efforts led to groundbreaking performance further portraying the Marine Corps’ ability to understand and address millennial wants and needs in the social space.