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Research Synopsis

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Research Questions

  1. What platforms are used, and how much are they used?
  2. What online material engages people, and who is engaged? To what effect?

As the U.S. population has increasingly adopted social media platforms, the U.S. Army has established its own recruiting website and social media accounts to facilitate communication and interaction with potential recruits, family members, and friends. While the growth in social media use has expanded the options available for Army recruiting, it also raises questions as to how the Army can best leverage technology to improve the effectiveness of its recruiting and the ways it connects with youth. The Army Marketing and Research Group (AMRG) asked RAND Arroyo Center to examine these issues and to develop strategies and recommendations.

Given the advances in the use of technology, our goal in this report is to analyze several online and social media platforms used by the Army, in particular GoArmy.com (the Army's main recruiting and outreach webpage) and the Facebook and Twitter accounts maintained by AMRG. We focus on these three platforms because they are used by AMRG as its primary means of communication and outreach. We analyze various measures to understand if and how potential recruits and others are engaging with these platforms. We also present information about the likely outcomes of the Army's technology-based outreach efforts.

Key Findings

GoArmy.com visitors are interested in career information, and the site is used more intensively in populated areas and in immigrant and ethnic communities

  • Visitors to GoArmy.com are likely to view pages containing career-related information and, to a lesser extent, information about procedures and requirements to join the military.
  • The number of visitors is positively correlated with contracts, but the relationship is very small.
  • People living in densely populated areas and those living in places with higher proportions of minority groups and immigrants appear to use GoArmy.com more intensively than others. In some cases, there are more contracts than would be expected in these areas.

@GoArmy's Twitter is a good source for building awareness of Army culture, but the platform is less effective in producing contracts

  • Content originating from @GoArmy focuses on careers, the Army in general, and uses social media–specific language. Other service accounts (e.g., Marines, Peace Corps) focus on values and recruiting.
  • Content of mentions and retweets by @GoArmy followers tends to be about sports or history.

GoArmy's Facebook page has an audience made up of the general public, soldiers, veterans, military families, and potential recruits

  • The Army's Facebook account has substantial potential for creating a positive image of an Army career for precisely the people who are in a position to influence potential recruits.
  • Social media platforms offer a wealth of information and the potential to determine how the audience responds to specific posts and information.
  • Information collected as part of this project suggests that the response to images of women serving as soldiers generally is quite positive.

Recommendations

  • Gain a better understanding of the audience for different communication channels.
  • Build the follower base.
  • Develop additional metrics to measure communication effectiveness.
  • Continue to explore social media data as a measure of audience reactions to Army-relevant information.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs and conducted by the Personnel, Training, and Health Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.

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