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We’ve all been laughing at President Cheese and its 45 day tweet-authorisation debacle (see HuffPo's explanation).

But if we’re honest, social media still has the power to unnerve many organisations. The nature of corporate comms departments and press offices is to control the news, if not everything said about the company in question, at least the messages emanating from within.

There’s probably no more officious (and I don’t use this word negatively) an institution than an intergovernmental military alliance. That’s what NATO is (or OTAN in French), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, a collection of 28 member states that mutually defend against attack.

That’s why NATO is perhaps the perfect organisation to look at to ascertain the state of social media today. How does NATO use social media?

Franky Saegerman was speaking at Hootsuite’s first Connect event in London and I thought I’d share some of his insights.

Below are the simple strategic goals of NATO on social media and the methods by which it tries to meet them. Nothing groundbreaking there, but when looking in detail at how the organisation uses Facebook, one can see some clear trends that we’ve seen in social media over the last couple of years. And, although it’s a much-derided management apothegm, ‘thinking outside of the box’ is quite a feat for NATO, and yields some fun and surprising content (which we’ll look at shortly).

The goals of NATO’s social media efforts are:

  • Brand awareness.
  • Increase online engagement.
  • Reach key opinion formers.
  • Reach a younger audience.
  • Acquire fans and followers.

How does NATO achieve these goals?

  • Selection of diverse material.
  • Stimulating engagement.
  • Sharing where and when possible.
  • Thinking outside of the box.
  • Moderation of post count (around three posts a day on any network).

Facebook

Let’s start with an amusing juxtaposition. Below we have a statement on the NATO website about Australia’s renewed agreement with the organisation. Contrast that with the image beneath it that was shared via Facebook to communicate the same message.

Of course, Australia’s press team gave the go-ahead for this treatment, but it still shows an acute awareness of what works on social.

Website content

nato aussie agreement

Repurposed for Facebook

aussie nato agreement on facebook

This engagement with pictures is a big trend in social and for NATO.

Compare its Facebook page today with a snapshot from 2011.

2011

nato facebook 2011

2014

nato facebook 2014

Web content

That Aussie pic is probably a little misrepresentative of the Facebook appraoch as a whole, as it’s still fairly serious stuff, albeit not dry either.

The NATO website itself has hosted a range of imagery, interactive elements and informative content, and this translates well to social media.

Here are a few examples.

What is NATO?

This NATO welcome landing page is a superb example of web design. It's a scrolling experience with some animated elements, embedded videos and plenty of colour and imagery.

what is nato?

Interactive maps and games

Great educational and fun tools for audiences NATO is trying to reach.

Facebook

nato map game on facebook

Website

nato map game on nato website

Twitter

Four Twitter accounts preside. One for the NATO Spokesperson, one for its Secretary General, one for NATO itself and a fourth for the NATO multimedia library.

If the Secretary General of NATO is on Twitter, it's increasingly difficult for any CEO to argue he or she shouldn't be.

YouTube

NATO has channels in four languages – English, French, Arabic and Russian. The videos are the same, recorded in French or English and dubbed in the other languages. NATO gets around 7,000 video views per day on this platform.

Appropriately enough, the header video is a nice roundup of NATO social media activity. Check it out for a bombastic overview.

Measuring success

Always a tough one, measuring the impact of social.

More common sense from Franky though. NATO looks at awareness, appreciation, action and advocacy. Roughly speaking these map to views, likes/comments, clicks and shares respectively. 

Whilst the numbers aren’t huge, NATO knows that social media is a way of being out in front and managing perception. Conflicts in future may be increasingly influenced online. 

Ben Davis

Published 5 June, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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