By Joe Lacdan, Army News ServiceFebruary 1, 2019
WASHINGTON -- The Army's new accession strategy includes expanding into major metropolitan areas and more into social media to reach a more diverse, qualified audience, leaders said in a Pentagon briefing Jan. 31.
The service identified 22 focus cities with growing populations of highly-qualified 18- to 24-year-olds with minimal exposure to the Army, including Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles. The Army is using social media, outreach events and key leader engagements to help increase awareness of Army opportunities in these areas.
The service will also increase its regional presence on social media applications, like TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, and has upgraded the interface of GoArmy.com, making the Army's official recruiting website more user and mobile friendly.
"We wanted to get the word out to a broader swath of America," said Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command.
The outreach efforts have already shown results. Recruiters in 16 of the 22 targeted cities have improved their recruiting numbers.
Townsend credited a stronger presence on social media and an increased number of recruiters for the recent success.
"We feel very confident in the morale of the recruiting force," Townsend said.
Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of Army Recruiting Command, said a concentrated recruiting strategy, which included visits to target cities by Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper and Townsend, helped ease the burden on recruiters.
The Army looks to emphasize locally-tailored market research to match the interests of potential recruits to the needs of the service.
"In the past we have relied on traditional recruiting strongholds, the Southeast, the South and … a little of the Midwest," Townsend said. "That's not where our youth is growing the most in this country. To better represent America, we've got to go where the youth are to have better success."
Among their findings, Army Recruiting Command learned that recruits did not answer phone calls, preferring instead to connect through social media. Although in areas of south Texas, a phone call to potential recruits' parents showed some success.
After taking command of USAREC last July, Muth said he refocused efforts toward empowering recruiters with knowledge of the communities they serve. He provided recruiters access to social media with established conduct guidelines.
"We have the bigger picture where we have to get after marketing and analytics. But we also have to understand that recruiting is local," said Command Sgt. Maj. Tabitha Gavia, USAREC's senior enlisted leader. "So, if the recruiter in [the] Pasadena recruiting station [near] Houston tells us that they are reaching people with Instagram … we know that works in that area. And that's essentially getting it from the ground up back to us."
The service also looks to shift from previous commercials that heavily focused on combat operations. New commercials will instead target a younger audience.
Instead of just network television, Townsend said videos will likely air on social media and other online sources.
Sgts. 1st Class Arlondo Sutton of the Atlanta Recruiting Battalion and Jason Locke from the Houston battalion collaborated to create the latest social media product, a music video highlighting the benefits of service. The video debuted Feb. 1 on the HLN network and on various Army social media pages.
The music video, produced at Fort Benning, Georgia, in December, features two NCOs singing and dancing in the streets of Atlanta as a way to connect to a younger audience. The video featured a variety of career fields, including military police and infantry. It featured an original song "Giving All I Got," written by Sutton and Locke.
In December, the service announced the creation of an esports team, which has had over 7,500 Soldiers apply so far for 20 positions to play competitive video games in various tournaments.
The team will allow Soldiers to directly interact with potential recruits and local communities. USAREC is in the process of building an 18-wheeler gaming truck, complete with 8 Scorpion gaming chairs and big screens on the outside.
"This is just where the youth are," Muth said. "This is where they're going, so we'll go with them."
Townsend also cited success stories, such as an Army recruiter who had reached 45 new recruits by posting memes on Instagram. The memes generated questions from potential recruits and piqued their interest. After further study, USAREC learned that those in the recruiter's office who used social media outdistanced themselves from other recruiters.
"That's powerful information," Muth said.
GoArmy.com recently underwent a minor facelift after nearly a decade of no updates, Townsend said, adding it could be up to a year before the site is completely overhauled.
The long-term goal of these revamped efforts, he said, is to develop a recruiting model that allows the service to recruit more Soldiers than ever before with fewer recruiters.