For years, the Army’s online programs have harnessed the social power of the Internet to provide Soldiers with a platform to share their untold stories and perspectives on Army service – from military recruitment and basic training to everyday life and personal development.
In 2008, the agency worked closely with the Army to launch Army Strong Stories (www.armystrongstories.com), the first-ever official Soldier blog and storytelling platform. To date, Army Strong Stories has garnered more than 4,500 written and video submissions, more than 4,000 site comments and a 5,000 percent increase in site traffic from 2008 to 2010. With the success of Army Strong Stories and per the recommendation of the agency team, the U.S. Army has integrated mobile strategies and tactics to further reach potential recruits in a meaningful, relevant manner.
The implemented programs create a digital ecosystem that provides an efficient, effective way of leveraging existing advocates and connecting them with the Army’s target audiences – 18-to-24-year-olds and 13-to-17-year-olds. Through mobile technology, these audiences can experience the Army’s brand promise via direct, first-hand engagement with Soldiers.
RESEARCH AND OBJECTIVES
Industry research proved that mobile is emerging as a preferred digital environment, with significant growth in media usage on handheld devices. For the Army, this is particularly relevant as recruiting audiences are among the fastest growing audience segments adopting mobile media. Data published in comScore’s 2010 Mobile Year in Review offers several points to demonstrate this growth:
• Nearly 47 percent of mobile subscribers in the U.S. were mobile media users (browsed the mobile web, accessed applications, downloaded content or accessed the mobile Internet via SMS)
• Smartphone ownership increased from 16.8 percent to 27 percent, while 3G/4G phone ownership reached 51 percent
• Nearly one-third of mobile users in the U.S. have unlimited data plans
• The U.S. smartphone market is largely driven by young adults
• Prospects: 18- to-24-year-olds represent the largest penetration of smartphone owners
• Pre-prospects: 13- to- 17-year-olds were one of the fastest growing ages segments in the U.S. smartphone market in 2010 (up 86 percent over 2009)
Additionally, the team was well-versed in the latest research from Nielsen concerning mobile adoption rates, which projected that one out of every two Americans would own a smartphone by the end of 2011. With more than 800 Soldier bloggers now engaging on Army Strong Stories, mobile connectivity remains a high priority for Soldiers looking to stay in communication with their units, bases, fellow Soldiers, and friends and family members. Taking all of this research into consideration, the Army established a goal to increase its social media engagement by expanding Army Strong Stories with new storytelling platforms and initiatives to provide an accurate depiction of military life.
Mobile channels guide content and conversation across all programs and social channels, reach targets in desktop-free environments and do so in a highly relevant manner. Specifically, effective mobile strategies to help tell the Army story included:
• Secure digital utility, access and interactivity even in offline environments to quickly and easily deliver contextually relevant content, matching target’s information needs and mindset
• Provide applications that make news and information about Army life available anytime, anywhere, helping prospects learn and decide, helping parents and influencers provide informed counsel and giving military families support
• Create personal connections with prospects regardless of time or place
In response to the rapid growth in smartphone use and to address the needs of an increasingly mobile Soldier force, the U.S. Army released an Army Strong Stories iPhone application and mobile website.
As a natural extension of the Army’s ongoing commitment to engage potential recruits via social media channels, the Army Strong Stories iPhone app and mobile website offer on-the-go access to site content, while enabling site portability. Soldiers and supporters can share their stories, pictures and videos at anytime from anywhere. With every program, the U.S. Army remains committed to providing a transparent view of Soldiers’ daily lives, and this mobile program enhances that transparency.
The Army Strong Stories iPhone app and mobile website allows readers, bloggers, Army Prospects, supporters and internal Army personnel portable access to new ArmyStrongStories.com content and features, enabling them to tell their stories easily with mobile technology. The Army continually evaluates additional mobile platforms to gauge program expansion.
Army Strong Stories can also be accessed on a variety of smartphones, either by visiting the mobile website at m.armystrongstories.com or downloading the Army Strong Stories iPhone application in the Apple App Store.
Users are able to:
• Read the latest Soldier blog posts and supporter stories
• Log in and post new stories
• Read all posts from a favorite blogger
• Comment on posts
• Share stories on Facebook and Twitter
The iPhone app and mobile site accomplished the goals outlined above by providing Soldiers an opportunity to continually share their stories wherever and whenever.
Key results include:
• 2,000 iPhone app downloads from March 1, 2011 – January 1, 2012.
• Up to 10% of Army Strong Stories posts are made through the mobile app and site combined
• Soldiers are now able to upload stories, photos, videos and other content in real-time, contributing to more timely, accurate and engaging stories. Prolific Soldier blogger, Captain Brian Sansom uses the iPhone app to blog from Army events in real-time. Cpt. Sansom is just one of the many bloggers contributing to the site’s mobile success.
• Garnered more than 9.8 million impressions, with notable coverage in top tier outlets including: FastCompany.com, Mashable.com, SeattleTimes.com, MacNewsWorld.com, Milblogging.com and ArmyTimes.com.
“The new app will make it easier for soldiers to share their stories, but more importantly— at least from a recruiting perspective — easier for potential recruits to hear them.” --Sarah Kessler, Mashable.com
“It's crazy to see how far along the military has come in supporting social media.” – Milblogging.com
“The U.S. Army is constantly trying to cast itself as modern and ‘with it’ in its attempt to enlist young recruits. In the era of smartphones and Tumblr, what better way to appear hip than by launching an iPhone blogging app? ... The app’s release signifies that the Army is willing to play along with social media as a communication tool for its soldiers — somewhat surprising in the era of WikiLeaks.” –Aemon Malone, DigitalTrends.com