Social Media Spotlight: 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point

5 Oct

2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry PointFor this week’s Social Media Spotlight we are throwing in a curveball. We are steering away from the normal businesses we have had in the past to bring you an organization that is helping to protect the land and freedom we hold dearly. We are proud to welcome the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point as our feature for this week’s installment. Many people still may not know that the military has gotten on board the social media bandwagon, and rightfully so! We had the pleasure to speak with Staff Sgt. Roman Yurek, social media chief for the 2nd MAW/MCAS Cherry Point. We asked him about their social media initiatives and here is what he had to say:

What social media platforms do you currently use?

R: 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point jointly utilize three social media platforms. The reason this is a joint venture is due to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing being the operational military force located at MCAS Cherry Point. The primary ‘hub’ for our social media efforts is via Facebook. We have found that due to the overall amount of users on Facebook, this seems to be the best outlet to use to disseminate our information for public consumption. Many of the subordinate units within 2nd MAW also operate Facebook pages. The information on these pages is more specific to that unit, but all information is authorized for public release. Additionally, we have just launched www.facebook.com/TheAirShow which is the official MCAS Cherry Point Air Show Facebook page.

Our secondary focus is YouTube, for all of our video and multimedia productions. These products are linked directly to our Facebook page, thus allowing a Facebook fan to click the link and go to our YouTube channel. The other platform is Twitter. Currently every post made to our Facebook Page is automatically posted to our Twitter page. Due to the production of our weekly printed newspaper The Windsock, many of our posts are derived from the newspaper. We do try to make at least 3-6 posts per day. These posts range from stories printed through civilian media outlets, updates on events/happenings on the installation and questions on how we can potentially improve what we do via social media.

What value, if any, does social media provide to your business?

R: First let me explain my office. We are called the Joint Public Affairs Office for both 2nd MAW and MCAS Cherry Point. One of our main missions is to tell the Marine Corps story through the actions of personnel and units within 2nd MAW and MCAS Cherry Point. Historically, that has been done primarily through our weekly printed newspaper, The Windsock, and through press releases. Due to the shift of information from hardcopy newspapers and one-way journalism to electronic forums consisting of conversations that share information, we had to adjust as well. With that said, if we wanted to put out a story or information about an upcoming event, we would have to plan around the Thursday publication date of The Windsock. With social media we can instantly post that information for public consumption. Immediate dissemination of information is very valuable in our ability to tell the Marine Corps story.

Another value of social media is the first word, SOCIAL. Being a military organization, many people don’t really understand what we are all about and how to interact with us. Social media gives users an instant ability to talk with us and share views on a platform that they are familiar with. From a business standpoint, one of the most valuable pieces of information is what your customer base thinks of you and your products. The same view can be used for the military. Our ‘customers’ are really all Americans. Being able to hear back from our ‘customers’ allows us to improve our own services and clarify information we might have released that was not understood. It is very easy to spout out acronyms and other military jargon, but if that information is not understood by the people it is intended for, social media allows those people to immediately respond, and we can then immediately clarify that information.

Another value is being able to stay in touch. The Marine Corps is a very proud organization that is deeply rooted in our legacy and traditions. If you ever get a chance to observe an older World War II Marine veteran speak with a current Marine straight out of basic training, most people would assume they are related. They will talk like grandfather and grandson/daughter. Although there is not a drop of physical blood that relates these two individuals, the bond they share as Marines makes them family. Just like parents use social media to keep in touch with their children and grandparents with grandkids, social media allows the Marine Corps to keep in touch with its vast family. As the Marine Corps changes, those changes can be shared with our family across the globe using Facebook and other social media forums.

Which social media platform works best for your business?

R: Right now for what we do, Facebook seems to be the best platform because it allows us the most functionality in one place. Status updates allow us to share short and concise messages that impact our fan base and many times the community that lives on or just outside our gates. We can also upload high resolution images individually or through photo albums. We can share links from our official websites and other websites. Even though we do use YouTube as our video hub, we could post video directly to Facebook.

Facebook really paid off during Hurricane Irene, which hit the east coast of North Carolina. The air station was on complete lock down, and residents were strongly urged to stay in their residences in order to safely ride out the storm. Our building was operating on generator power, which allowed us to still utilize the Internet. Although most of our immediate fan base (base residents/personnel) had no electricity or means to access the Internet, our updates were still viewed by our extended Marine Corps family. What I mean is moms, dads, siblings, uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc. were able to keep abreast of the situation here and learn that there were no injuries which helped put them more at ease since their loved ones were out here during that storm.

Additionally, my mom recently told me over the phone that as a computer programmer, she used our Facebook page to help conduct situational analysis on their stores in the area and why certain stores were not up and running yet. As we provided updates, she was able to relate that to her company which is headquartered outside of Chicago. Once the storm passed we were also able to utilize Facebook to begin passing recovery information and updates on things like when power would be turned back on or tips on what individuals need to do to begin their insurance claims.

How has social media impacted your business in terms of ROI and sales?

R: We are a military organization so there is no formal selling. However, one return we look for is our ability to tell the Marine Corps story effectively. Utilizing social media allows people to comment on our various posts and gives us immediate feedback. For newspapers we would have had to conduct some sort of physical survey and hope enough people return completed surveys for us to analyze. Now with social media, the feedback is instant and because it is already electronic, most of the data that we need can be pulled quickly. This helps us determine why there was a drop in fan interactions or what caused a spike with comments on a certain day. These are pieces of data that with a printed newspaper you can never really determine. The most you can do is monitor your newspaper racks and see how many papers are picked up each day. That information is still beneficial, but there is no immediate social interaction with readers to comment on the paper or stories. Social media allows users to make that connection with us, allowing us to instantly make corrections or adjustments to provide higher quality material in both our electronic posts and physical newspaper prints.

Do you have any advice for companies who are on the fence about social media?

R: DO IT! The Marine Corps was very slow to embrace social media and at one point early on the Marine Corps restricted access to social media sites on official government networks. This was eventually lifted and over the past couple years, the Marine Corps has been using social media to expand public knowledge of what we do as Marines and as the United States Marine Corps. This can be said for nearly any organization. What does Pepsi do? They make soft drinks, but what else? What does Toyota do? They make motor vehicles, but what else? What does the Marine Corps do? Social media allows us to share not only the simple answer, that we fight our nation’s battles. But the less known answers that show how we send groups of Marines to South America to provide humanitarian assistance. Or that we utilize female Marines in Afghanistan to provide a link to Afghan women who don’t feel comfortable talking to male Marines about their problems. Social media allows organizations like us to share our big picture information, as well as the little things that really help define us.

And as stated over and over, the social aspect is key. Every organization has a customer of sorts in one way or another. What better way to find out what a customer thinks of your product or organization than in a public forum that can be accessed instantly. There is no worry about calling the 800 number during normal business hours and hoping a caller from the west coast correctly determined the time difference to call that number for an east coast company. Now it is all immediate and by going public, it allows an organization to be friendlier. It may seem scary to have everything viewable by everyone, but the truth is most people feel more comfortable sharing with an organization that is willing to share as well.

Is there any social media strategy that you would like to improve or do differently?

R: We are currently in the process of adjusting our social media strategy. Previously the focus was just on Facebook, with a small effort on YouTube and minimal effort on Twitter. Due to an overall shift to social media and our upcoming air show, we are hoping to use some of the new personnel we have to really exploit various social media forums to better tell the Marine Corps story for 2nd MAW and MCAS Cherry Point.

To do this we are going to maintain a presence on Facebook  and utilize that as our social media hub. However, we are also going to eliminate the automatic posting to our Twitter page and post directly to this site ensuring the use of “Twitter friendly” posts. Our YouTube site will continue to be our video hub, but as we increase the production of video and multimedia products, this will become our “go-to page” for videos.

With the MCAS Cherry Point Air Show scheduled for early May 2012, we have already activated a Facebook presence at www.facebook.com/TheAirShow. This will be the hub for all of our air show related material, but due to our overall fan basis at the MCAS Cherry Point Facebook page, we will use that page as a “middleman” to share information and point fans to the official air show page. In addition we have begun using QR codes on various fliers and our weekly publication, The Windsock, to merge the physical and digital worlds. Now someone walking by a newspaper stand with a smart phone can scan that code and be instantly transported to our digital Facebook page.

Those same codes and our newer Twitter posts with links will be tracked using Bit.ly. Using this for tracking will help us determine our ROI as best we can for a government agency. Since one of our main goals is increased interaction and being able to tell our portion of the Marine Corps story, tracking how links are used and which codes are scanned are just a couple of ways to see if we are effectively reaching our goals. With social media being a constantly evolving forum, we are always on the lookout for ways to effectively communicate and interact with our fans.

First and foremost, we would like to thank Roman Yurek and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point for allowing us to feature them in our weekly series! Roman was a pleasure to speak with and seeing what he has done with their social media is incredible. We look forward to watching their campaign grow successfully, and we will be keeping up with their future updates. (I can’t get enough of their YouTube page; jets are my kryptonite.) To find out more about the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, visit their website today!

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