Given that most 18 to 24 year-olds spend a large portion of their lives online, it's not surprising that the armed forces would seek to have a presence there as well. The Associated Press has a story detailing the Pentagon's efforts to use technology to recruit young adults into the armed services.
The various branches of the military are all trying various, overlapping methods to reach young people through technology. The Army has used online social networks like Facebook and Twitter to interface with potential recruits, and at least one three-star general has picked up the argot of the technorati and started using "friend" as a verb.
"You could friend your recruiter, and then he could talk to your friends," says Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley.As Freakley said, the military sees these sites as ways to leverage the connections that exist among online social networks to spread its message in a more intimate and direct way than is possible through traditional marketing mechanisms.
And it's not just recuiters who are using social networks. The top commander in Iraq has set up a Facebook page, and is using it to answer questions about the Iraq mission.
In addition to social networks, the Army has also rolled out a video game on its website, a virtual recruiter, and videos answering many frequently asked questions about military service.
Other branches are also using technology in similar ways:
"The Air Force has also established a Facebook page, Twitter feeds and a
blog, while the Marine Corps is using various networking sites mainly
for recruiting purposes. The Navy is 'experimenting' with several forms
of online media, and some of its commands are using Twitter, a
spokesman said. Even the Coast Guard commandant regularly updates his
Facebook status while traveling," according to the AP.
It's good to see the military getting saavy about social networks and the ways that people communicate and get information online. After all, terrorists use online tools to communicate, and other nations are no doubt studying how to use or disrupt online communications as part of an engagement with the US.
But, as I've said before, when government agencies catch on to sites like Facebook and Twitter, it usually means that those sites have grown long in the tooth and will soon be replaced by something newer and hipper.
Of course, someone probably said the same thing about the World Wide Web at some point in the early '90s, and it still seems to be going strong.