Social media and the U.S. Air Force (part 2)

Here is part 2 of my chat with Capt. Chris Sukach and Tanya Montgomery of U.S. Air Force Public Affairs on how the service uses social media.  In case you missed part 1 and hate reading the ending first, click here.

5. What is the AF doing well with SM and what not so well? 

Chris: I think our communications in general tend to be more reactive than proactive.  Both perspectives are needed, but the key is in balancing the two, and I don’t think as an organization we’re quite there yet.

A B-1B Lancer moves into position to be refueled by a KC-135 Stratotanker Feb 26, 2011, above Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

Tanya: It would be nice to see more AF senior leaders using social media to communicate. It’s a personal touch that shows they want to stay connected with stakeholders despite their busy schedules. They have perspectives that need to be shared.

The fact that there are many AF social media sites is a great thing. They’re willing to open themselves to the world and share their stories. They’re not afraid to take risks.

6. The military has a reputation for being a conservative, slow-to-change organization. With regard to SM, has that been a challenge? 

Chris: At times it has been, but at other times it seems the organization has moved quite quickly, as with the creation of DTM 09-026.

Tanya: There haven’t been many challenges to implementing social media in the AF. For the most part people understand the importance of social media, and they’re eager to use it.

I think that people are slow to accept that social media is not exactly like traditional public affairs. They forget to think about users and their needs. Not everything that goes on an organization’s website is interesting enough for social media, and what they think is important is not always a home-run on say, Facebook.

I’d also like to see more people create products with their social media lenses on. I see many traditional AF news stories that inspire my social media senses. I think to myself, it would be great to have pictures of X to put on Facebook and what about a blog post from an Airman quoted in such and such story. It would be great for people to consider social media as well. There are so many possibilities for it.

7.  Who do you follow (people, blogs, etc.) outside the AF to learn about SM trends and such?

Chris: I like ReadWriteWeb, Mashable and TechCrunch.  I also dig NakedSecurity.

Tanya: I follow Mashable, PR Daily, Social Media Today, The Next Web, TechCrunch, AllFacebook, AllTwitter, Brian Solis, and Peter Shankman.

8. Give me an example of when using SM really paid off for the AF?

Chris: There are multiple examples, but we’ve engaged via social media to quell rumors, answer questions and share first-hand experiences of the relief and assistance our Airmen were providing in Haiti after the Jan 2010 earthquake.

Tanya: Social media has been helpful in crises. CNN once reported that there was a C-17 crash near Olney, Texas. The social media team investigated it and couldn’t find anything to back up the claim. They verified with the FAA that there was no crash and corrected the record via Twitter. CNN later ran a story with the correct information.

9. Between Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, who would be a better social media strategist and why? 

Chris: Beaker.  He’s definitely the back-channel providing commentary to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew’s monologues.

Tanya: Kermit the Frog would be a better social media strategist because he’s practical and thoughtful. He would take a common sense approach to social media, and he’d be careful about what he posted. However, he might be too careful, and it might be hard for him to let loose when necessary. Miss Piggy, on the other hand, is an extrovert and wouldn’t have a problem interacting with people on social media. However, she might blab too much and say things she shouldn’t say. Kermit could be trained to be social on social media, but Miss Piggy would be a hopeless case.


So which Muppet do you think would make a great social media manager?  Did you read anything here you can use at your organization?  Comment below.


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