The various branches of the armed forces have refined their recruitment tactics over the years, seeking out high school and college students at malls, career fairs, and now through the internet. Lt. General Benjamin Freakley, the head of the Army command that oversees recruitment, believes that social networking websites offer a unique opportunity to reach the soldiers of tomorrow. Freakley thinks Facebook could be an effective tool in communicating with 18-24 year-olds, the age range that the Army targets for potential recruits. “You could friend your recruiter, and then he could talk to your friends,” Freakley states. Utilizing Facebook, the Army could reach out to high school and college students on a much broader scale.
In addition to a Facebook page, the Army also maintains a Twitter feed and blog which adds a new dimension to recruitment. Instead of listening to recruiters drone on about the benefits of the Army, recruiters, soldiers, and civilians are welcome to contribute in an open forum. Because of this open forum, people interested in a career in the Army can see comments from both sides of the fence, and determine whether Army culture is right for their lifestyle. Online social media has revolutionized the manner in which armed forces recruitment takes place, and the Army isn’t the only branch of the military reaping the benefits.
The Air Force also has a Facebook page, Twitter feeds and a blog, while the Marine Corps and Navy are experimenting with several different forms of online social media. Even the Coast Guard has commandants who update their Facebook statuses from their cell phones and post video blogs from overseas.
Because of social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, the armed forces will be able to correspond with millions of potential recruits who might not have otherwise been reachable; but is this a good thing? For those who have fallen into the 18-24 age range at some point in the last decade, it’s quite apparent that recruiters have become more aggressive, especially with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s not uncommon for students to be solicited by recruiters several times throughout the year at school, via phone, and in public places. Will high school and college students really want a recruiter contacting to them over Facebook because one of their Facebook ‘friends’ has expressed interest in joining the armed forces?
While few would dispute the necessity of armed forces recruitment (which avoids the military having to initiate a draft), recruiters should approach online recruitment with a bit of tact. Online social media websites are a way for people to keep in touch with their friends, not be harangued about joining the armed forces. Ultimately, such a practice could turn high school and college students against joining the armed forces. But for those who are interested in joining the military, Facebook and Twitter will be invaluable resources for reaching recruiters and understanding life in the military.