Monday, April 20, 2009

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U.S. Army uses Facebook page, tweets to declare war on Ashton Kutcher's top Twitter spot
Monday, April 20th 2009, 4:35 PM

The U.S. Army wants you - to be its friend on Facebook.

You can also follow the Army on Twitter. Or post a comment on its new blog. They're all part of the Army's new mission: social networking.

"If Ashton Kutcher can do it, the U.S. Army can do it," said Lindy Kyzer, who posts the Army's "status updates" on Facebook and "tweets" on Twitter.

Kyzer issued a public challenge - to get more followers on Twitter than Kutcher, an actor and social networking fiend who recently won a bet with CNN that he could reach 1 million followers first.

"We know that our ability to share the Army story is shaped by how we tell it and where we tell it," said Lt. Col. Kevin Arata, who heads the Army's new Online and Social Media Division. "Using social media platforms allows us to tell our story where we know people are at and are listening."

Even Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is on Facebook. With nearly 5,000 "friends," the four-star general is updating his status straight from the battlefield - something unheard of in past conflicts.

Gen. Michael Oates, commander of the 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum, N.Y., has been blogging from Iraq for months.

"Six soldiers honored for bravery in Afghanistan; are reminded, 'of those who didn't come back,'" reads one Army "tweet."

"Drill Sergeants work hard to debunk Hollywood stereotypes about their role," reads another.
The Facebook and Twitter messages are really an extension of the press releases and stories that Army officials put out through the Division of Public Affairs. But it's also a place for soldiers and their families to connect.

"Most [wall posts] are shout-outs," Arata said. "They're people saying, 'My son's in the Army, my granddaughter's in Iraq.'"

The Army's not alone. The Air Force is on Twitter and the Coast Guard is on Facebook.

"It's an instant support network," Kyzer said. "We've seen a ton of parents on there."

Officially launched on Thursday, the Army's Facebook page already has more than 3,000 "friends."

The page is an "open forum," but there are rules of engagement: keep it clean and courteous.
"There have been very few negative comments," Kyzer said. "It's self-regulating - that's the beauty of social networking."

With more than 4,000 followers on Twitter, Army officials said they hope to gain a worldwide following.

"We'll see where it goes," Arata said. "We're not fearful of what's out there. We really want to see what the world has to say."
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Crossposted at US Army on Facebook

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