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An Army of Many: Social Media and the Armed Forces

blog_army_socialmedia Social media is a powerful tool that often allows users to spread ideas and help make the world a better place. But what about the medium’s power to affect national (or personal) security? The US Department of the Army recently released a handbook that provides helpful hints and warnings about the dangers of social media to employees and soldiers. The 39 page document aims to reach the newcomers to social media as well as the tech-savvy .

From the operational security standpoint, this sort of guide makes perfect sense. When a 19 year old soldier has grown up with the internet and has been sharing facets if his or her life online for over a decade, it becomes important to set slight boundaries on what information should and should not be shared during wartime. The guide focuses on helping users of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and blogging software be better aware of the data that they are putting online; as this information may compromise things like unit location and personal safety while deployed.

Some tips from the document include:

  • Be careful with geotagging pictures on Flickr or Picassa
  • Do not reveal sensitive personal information about yourself on social networking profiles
  • Talk to your family and make sure that they also follow good operational security online
  • Do not violate copyright or trademark

The US Army is not forbidding free speech, nor is it prohibiting its soldiers from using social media to connect with their friends and family across the globe. Rather – the Department of the Army is educating against accidental information leakage (like GPS coordinates or personal information) and making sure everyone is keeping up with good operational security practices.

To read the entire document go go –


What do you think of the US Army 2011 Social media guidelines?

Facebook is NOT big in Japan

In the U.S. 60% of Internet users have Facebook accounts.  In Japan, only 2% of Internet users have Facebook accounts and services like Mixi, Gree and Mobage-town are 10 times as big.  According to a recent New York Times article, one of the primary reasons Facebook has failed to catch on in Japan is its insistence that people use real names when signing up for accounts.  Japanese Internet users fiercely guard their privacy, and, according to the article, even popular bloggers prefer to use nicknames or pseudonyms when socializing on the web.  It is interesting that even as technology makes the world a little smaller every day, there are still some very fundamental differences in how people choose to use the tools we now have access to.  The full article is worth a read

Web 2.0 Year-End Recap – Part 1

2010 has been a big year for tech innovation and the social media world. Facebook hit 500 million users, and the midterm elections meant that our elected officials were tweeting en masse. This is part one of a two-part Bivings Report end-of-the-year recap of the top 10 biggest trends in web 2.0 in the last year.

Have your own ideas or think we missed an important development? Please do leave your thoughts in the comments below!

1. Location, location and location

This year saw the explosion of Foursquare, Gowalla and the launch of Facebook Places. With a consistently growing number of web and GPS-enabled phones on the market, geolocation-based social networks really took off in 2010. A number of major retailers utilized ‘checking in’  to offer discounts and promotions to their customers (particularly on Black Friday).  The competition amongst rivals Foursquare and Gowalla has also been intensifying over the course of the last twelve months – with Gowalla enabling Fouraquare check-ins through it’s application, and Foursquare allowing users to upload pictures when they check in.  We firmly believe that this particular web 2.0 tend will continue to flourish as more and more of the world’s population gains access to the internet via web-enabled phones.

2. Trend toward mobile + Cloud continues

More and more of the world’s cell phone customers are gaining access to web-enabled phone. Subsequently, a greater number of people is able to access a larger amount of information while on the go and removed from their computers.

Cloud computing is anther technological force that isn’t going away any time soon. More and more corporations, government agencies, and small businesses are beginning to utilize the efficiencies inherent in cloud computing to help their employees be more flexible and efficient. With companies like IBM and Microsoft throwing major publicity campaigns for the cloud – we predict that this technological innovation will continue to gain ground.

3. Websites making increasing use of social networking

While one would assume that by this point, there would be few, if any major media, corporate, or university website nowadays that does not feature at least one link to an online social network; we were surprised to find that many Fortune 500 companies still have not adopted social media. According to a 2010 study "The Fortune 500 and Social Media" by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth: 

23% or 116 of the 2010 F500 companies have a corporate blog. Of the top ten F500 companies, only Bank of America does not have a public facing blog.  Compared to 2009 in which 22% of F500 companies had a blog, this aspect of online engagement appears to have become stagnant.

60% or 298 of the 2010 F500 companies have corporate Twitter accounts.  While this is up dramatically from 35% in 2009, one would expect that with the recent economic recession and a tougher competitive environment, more corporations would have jumped on the social media bandwagon.  Of the top ten Fortune 500 companies, Wal-Mart, Exxon, Chevron, General  Electric, Bank of America, ConocoPhillips, AT&T, Ford and HP regularly update their Twitter accounts.

56% or 280 of the 2010 F500 companies are now on Facebook.  While Facebook was not studied in the 2009 report, this number is again much lower than one would expect given Facebook’s growth and earned media attention.

4. Nonprofit and Charitable Giving: Be Strong and Innovate

While the economic recession took a major tool on fundraising for  nonprofits and charities in 2009 and the first half of 2010, two recent studies by Guidestar and the Network for Good indicate that not only is the worst over, but that also by adopting a strategic approach to online giving, it is possible for non-profits to succeed even in hard economic times.

In GuideStar’s 2010 Fundraising Survey which polled 2,356 public charities and 163 private foundations:


Facebook as Predictor of the 2010 Elections

A few days ago Facebook released a study that showed that in most cases the candidate with the most Facebook fans won the election.  Specifically, they wrote:

“The Facebook political team’s initial snapshot of 98 House races shows that 74% of candidates with the most Facebook fans won their contests. In the Senate, our initial snapshot of 19 races shows that 81% of candidates with the most Facebook fans won their contests.”

Folks a lot smarter than I am have deftly pointed out the problems with the concept that you can predict election results based on the number of Facebook fans.  We have no idea how many of the fans actually live in the district of the politicians they are fans of.  Tea Party and colorful folks tend to attract more fans that more straightforward candidates.  Etc.  Etc.

However, I did want to add one small point to the discussion.  For politicians in lower profile races (Congress in particular), the number of Facebook hands is more an indication of how hard they have worked to recruit fans than it is of voter enthusiasm.

These fans don’t just appear out of the blue – campaigns work hard to actively build their fan base using a variety of tactics.  Do they have a prominent Facebook link on their site?  Do they include their Facebook address in email communication?  Do they post compelling content?  Do they run Facebook ads in an effort to promote their page?

Politicians with national profiles can simply put a Facebook page up and watch the numbers grow.  But your run-of-the-mill Congressional candidate has to work to grow their supporter base.  If you put in the time and spend some money you can make your numbers go up.  If you don’t, your numbers will stay pretty flat unless you are a sensation like Christine O’Donnell or Sharon Angle.

Winning the U.S. Senate Social Media Election- CA, IL, NV, WA, WV Edition

congress on facebookSince our 2006 report on the quality and content of campaign websites, we have seen a marked improvement across the board in sites that incorporate multimedia content, personal fundraising, the Spanish language, and of course, candidate presences on social networking websites. With the 2010 midterm elections just a week away, one would assume that given the wide praise and success of  President Obama’s 2008 campaign website and social media presence, that senior members of his own party in tough campaigns would be the most adept at online communications and social media.

Surprisingly, one only need do a quick Google search for “Harry Reid” to find out this is not the case,  as Angle supporters own the keyword “Harry Reid” on Google AdWords.  If you do manage to find Senate Majority Leader Reid’s website, with the exception of the splash page, his official website is almost exclusively devoted to Sharron Angle.  Conversely, Angle’s website splash page and Facebook fan page are all about President Obama. Call me “Old School” but I find this strange. When you spend more time attacking your opponent than pitching your case, perhaps voters can be forgiven for selecting “none of the above” on their ballots.

Given that the majority of polling fails to account for voters who only have cell phones and the general fact that membership in social networking sites is younger, we conducted some brief research into the quantity and quality of online support for five very competitive Senate campaigns. Although the raw number of a candidate’s Facebook fans and Twitter followers is a quick and easy metric that is useful for gauging momentum (see the Facebook Ratings: Election 2010 post on AllFacebook), we used Slurp140 over the last 7 days to track activity on Twitter and combined the results with Facebook’s ad targeting tool.

By The Numbers
In examining the closest five Senate campaigns in which the Democrats have to win at least two to remain in control of the Senate: Boxer vs. Fiorina, in California, Murray vs. Rossi in Washington, Kirk vs. Giannoulias in Illinois, Raese vs. Manchin in West Virginia, and Reid vs. Angel in Nevada; our team came up with the following results:

Facebook- Most in-state supporters:

  • Boxer with 20,560 over Fiorina’s 9,320
  • Murray with 15,460 over Rossi’s 3,460
  • Giannoulias with 10,520 over Kirk’s 6,020
  • Manchin with 3,140. (Stats for Raese N/A- Manchin’s total count is 1,710 higher)
  • Angle with 8,780 over Reid’s 6,880

Facebook- Most out-of-state supporters:  Of Sharron Angle’s 87,880 fans over 18, Only 8,780 claim Nevada as home on Facebook. Perhaps this race is getting some national attention? While Harry Reid isn’t doing much better, he is benefiting from a flaw in the algorithm as Facebook’s Ad Manager shows 22,020 supporters for Reid, 6,680 of whom list Nevada as home.

Most Educated Supporters: Those who self identify as college grads prefer Boxer, Murray, Giannoulias, Manchin and Reid.

Most Engaged Supporters: Sharron Angle, by a landslide. Since 10/18, things posted to the Angle campaign wall have attracted an impressive 24,841 total ‘likes’ or comments. Otherwise  Fiorina (3,686) tops Boxer (2,716) Rossi (4,713) over Murray (3,578)  Giannoulias (1,629) over Kirk (1,377) and Raese (984) over Manchin (846)

In terms of how Facebook statistics correlate with presence on other social networks, for whatever reason the GOP seems to be more adept at Twitter as:

Most Twitter Followers: Fiorina, Rossi, Kirk and Angle are all ahead. In West Virginia, neither candidate has put much time or effort into their accounts.

Highest Volume Twitter: On October 20th we set up Slurp140 to track all mentions of official candidate accounts in California, IllinoisNevada, Washington and West Virginia. Here both the total volume of tweets and number of people tweeting is generally in line with national media coverage. Given that since October 20th, only 950 people have referenced the WV Senate campaigns, perhaps the candidates there can be forgiven for not devoting time or resources to this medium. While there are certainly a large number of anonymous accounts and trolls, a quick look at the leaderboards indicates that with the exception of West Virginia, those on the  leaderboards are predominantly against the Democrats.

1. Nevada: 11,490 tweets by 3,292 people.
2. California: 10,838 tweets by 4,365
3. Washington: 9,595 tweets by 2, 253 people
4.  Illinois: 4,390 tweets by 1,166 people
5. West Virginia: 2,795 tweets by 950 people

Most YouTube Views: Perhaps due to the intervention of some Demon Sheep, Fiorina is way ahead of everyone with 857,007 total views. GOP a
lso seems to be winning the YouTube war as with the exception of Manchin, Angle, Rossi and Kirk are all ahead of their opponents.


1. While all politics may be local, modern campaigns are now national.

2. Many campaigns, despite having substantial resources are failing to follow the basics.

3. As we noted in our 2006 report- challengers, regardless of party affiliation are still the most adept at using new and emerging web tools. While the Democrat’s strength on Facebook in these specific races might be the exceptions that prove the rule, overall when you compare the national party committees candidates, the GOP is proving to be the most versatile producer of social media in 2010.