Virtual recruiting
Photos like the one above, as well as of Soldiers engaging in various training events, are posted throughout BCT training cycles. In addition, the Future Soldier Center page posts videos of Soldiers in training and on topics like "how to pack for BCT."

FORT KNOX, Ky. -- With 98 percent of online 18- to 24-year-olds using social media as a communication medium,* it is essential to be active on social media networks in order to most effectively reach the target market, as well as Future Soldiers and their families.

Recruiting Command's Virtual Recruiting and Social Media Center (VRC) on Fort Knox provides support for and expands the reach of recruiters nationwide through phone calls, emails, online chat rooms and, most recently, social media.

The Future Soldier Center and Future Soldier Family Facebook pages were created as the center's primary social networking presences. Maintaining connection and communication are critical to strengthening commitment and preparing Future Soldiers and their family members for Army life.

Out of 27,396 Future Soldiers surveyed by the VRC, 81.8 percent use Facebook. The target audience not only uses Facebook, but digitalbuzzblog.com reports 48 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds check Facebook when they wake up, with 28 percent checking it before they even get out of bed. Since the target audience is on Facebook, VRC staff members are on the site 8 a.m. to midnight six days a week.

Started in March 2011, the Future Soldier Family Facebook page has more than 7,000 fans. More than 9,000 fans interact with the page in a month. Family members of Soldiers have become very active on the Future Soldier Family Facebook page, conducting their own discussions and talking to each other to share experiences and provide support. Page comments number more than 20,000 a month.

The VRC's social media efforts also include monitoring several Army Facebook pages -- including the U.S. Army, Go Army, USAREC Headquarters and U.S. Army Reserve pages -- and responding to any enlistment or recruiting-related posts/questions. There is one representative assigned to each Facebook page per shift (day/night) and a team of approximately 60 employees who are responsible for the other operations within the VRC. With prior service members, former recruiters and family members working as social media representatives, the VRC team provides accurate responses based on their wealth of shared knowledge and experience.

In addition to more effectively reaching the target audience, the use of social media has created unique communication opportunities.

During the devastating storms in Joplin, Mo., for example, the VRC was able to transmit messages to Future Soldiers from the battalion commander and ensure contact between Future Soldiers and their recruiters was not lost during that time.

A pilot project with TRADOC's deputy commanding general for initial military training enables the use of real-time pictures and updates from basic combat training Soldiers. Using a cell phone, drill sergeants and Soldiers in training take pictures during BCT and instantly post them to the Future Soldier Center page. Soldiers post messages like, "Future Soldiers, what do you think may present a challenge for you on a foot march?" These messages lead to discussions among Future Soldiers and allow for interaction with Soldiers in training. Family members have also been excited about the project, looking for their Soldiers in the posted photos.

Senior leaders have also become actively involved in the pilot. Training battalion commander Lt. Col. John Allen's posts -- focused on BCT preparation, physical training and leave information -- are extremely popular with Future Soldiers and their family members. A comment on one of his posts about holiday leave shows how much of an impact the posts have: "Thank you, sir. ... I find myself looking for your updates here!"

Live, firsthand updates of BCT could not be shared with thousands of Future Soldiers and family members, and the public, in such a way without social media.

The VRC maintains multiple social media presences to reach recruiting audiences in different ways. Video demonstrations of topics like "how to pack for BCT" on the Future Soldier YouTube channel give Recruiting Command a more personal and helpful way to send information to Future Soldiers.

While return-on-investment is difficult to measure in social media, USAREC efforts have been successful in generating exposure and communicating with the target audience. Online chat and email have touched more than 4 million people over an 11-year existence, while messages posted to the Future Soldier Center Facebook page were viewed a total of 4 million times in the month of September alone. While this statistic does not show the actual number of people who read VRC messages on Facebook, it does reveal the huge expansion potential of recruiting messages through the use of social media.

* Source: Oct. 9 consumer research report conducted by Experian Simmons

Page last updated Wed December 21st, 2011 at 00:00