West Point shows military precision in its social media approach

We use Facebook to show them what West Point is all about and we try to show a unique aspect of West Point every day. We try to post at least three times a day with something that’s really interesting about West Point.

We also utilize our Facebook and social media platforms to be able to provide information in emergency situations. This past year we had a little earthquake – the one that hit the D.C. area and we felt the residual here at West Point. We didn’t have any damage or injuries, but we felt it and we put that out immediately. We captured a photo and sent it out.

We also felt the aftershock here. The immediate feedback we got, especially from parents, was excitement because they’re not here with their kids.  They didn’t have to call their kid and wonder where they are because they’re busy in class. We provided the information, “Hey, your kid is just fine.”

During Hurricane Irene, some portions of West Point got a lot of water. We were able to provide that information to our community and relayed information about road conditions. Again, the parents were able to check in and make sure kids were fine.

DT: What channels are you using to get the message out three times a day to tell people more about West Point?

MN: We are heavily focused on Facebook and Twitter. Our Twitter account is tied to our Facebook. We also utilize YouTube and Flickr. Anytime one of our photographers takes photographs, we load them onto Flickr and caption them. We’re very successful with photos.

Many times people do not necessarily want to get the information from Facebook, but they’re interested in a photo. You know “Where’s Waldo?”  We say, “Where’s Your Cadet?” A lot of times parents are perusing through photos hoping to catch a glimpse of their own child.  Those are predominantly platforms on which we focus our attention.

Because of limited personnel to focus on social media in our offices, we need to make sure we’re focusing on the platforms that communicate with a broad audience.

DT: What kind of social media policy or guidelines do you have in place for your students and your staff?

MN: We utilize the Department of Defense and the Department of Army social media policies. We are constantly keeping tabs on what’s coming in terms of new policies that we need to pay attention to. We also need to pay attention to training, the recommended training, or the required training. We get that information by staying closely tied to the Department of Army, to our counterpart in the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs at the Pentagon. I have a counterpart there that I talk with and her team shares information.

With that, we have created a social media standard operating procedure, an SOP, here at West Point that was approved by my boss, Lt. Colonel Sherri Reed who is the director of public affairs for communications at West Point. It’s readily available. We give those to departments when they ask for them.

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