6 experimental social media campaigns

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The value of taking risks; The Army

As brands flock to the social space, many are feeling their way and testing the waters, while others who strive for innovation must push harder than ever to stay ahead of the curve. It is exciting to watch companies creating premium content exclusive to their social properties and making use of existing tools in new ways. The low barrier to entry and relative affordability of social media allows brands to make bold strategic decisions and often create environments that stimulate creativity, reward risk takers, and consistently provide the best return on investment -- customer engagement. What follows are six examples of companies experimenting with social media in both modest and significant ways.

The Army
After a series of debacles related to the censoring and banning of social networking sites and blogs for active soldiers, the U.S. Army has loosened its policies and is embracing social media as a publicity and recruiting tool. In July 2009, the Army issued an operating order that officially permitted the use of Facebook and Flickr (but not MySpace or YouTube). The sensible new approach has allowed soldiers to communicate more easily with their loved ones and counterparts while keeping security risks to a minimum.

Additionally, the Army created its own blogging community called Army Strong Stories, a site featuring blog entries from more than 150 different bloggers, most of whom are soldiers on active-duty. Bloggers are encouraged to share both the good and bad about their unique experiences, giving the site a tremendous level of authenticity and transparency. Visitors are exposed to the raw and personal side of the Army in a way that traditional media rarely provides.

The site has garnered a highly positive response since its launch and showed consistent growth by increasing its total blogger count each month. Proving how personal many of the entries are, the word cloud that pulls terms from all of the blogs shows "family" as the most popular term. Others like "deployment" and "active-duty" are also mentioned by bloggers as topics at the forefront of their minds. A corresponding Twitter feed (@armystories) extends the Army Strong Stories message and pushes out new blog entries as they are posted.

As you can imagine, getting an organization as massive and stealth as the U.S. Army to adjust its social media policies and practices is quite a feat. The Army should be saluted for allowing the men and women who give so much to our country an open platform to express what they see and experience in their lives and on the battlefield.