Wavell Room
Image default
Short Read

Military social media and recruiting

The use of social media for military recruitment is a hotly debated topic. While these platforms offer the potential to reach a large, young demographic, there are substantial reasons why the Defence should exercise caution or avoid social media advertising altogether.

One major concern lies in the lack of positive engagement on social media platforms. Military-related posts often attract a flurry of negative comments, ranging from anti-war sentiments to criticisms of past and present military actions. This negativity can deter potential recruits and creates a hostile environment that undermines the Defence messaging. Moreover, the algorithms used by social media companies tend to amplify divisive and controversial content, making reasoned and productive discussions about military service unlikely.

Dead internet

The “dead internet theory” is another factor worth considering. This theory posits that a significant portion of online traffic comes not from real humans but from bots and automated accounts. These bots can artificially inflate engagement numbers, creating a false sense of effectiveness for advertising. Investing significant resources in a medium populated largely by bots is financially irresponsible and unlikely to yield genuine interest or leads.

Beyond these concerns, the very nature of social media platforms often clashes with the values and mission. Military life demands discipline, respect for authority, and a focus on the collective mission. Social media, on the other hand, is designed to encourage individual expression, self-promotion, and sometimes even dissent. The potential conflict between these two cultures can create confusion for young people who may not understand how the expectations of military service differ dramatically from those of online life.

Additionally, social media campaigns risk painting a misleading picture of military life. Recruitment ads can overemphasize action and adventure while downplaying the hardship, discipline, and potential dangers inherent to service life. This can lead to unrealistic expectations in recruits and a sense of disillusionment once they experience the reality..

Skills, skills, skills

Furthermore, the military has an increasing need for technically skilled individuals. Those who excel in fields like cybersecurity, engineering, and data analysis are in high demand. Unfortunately, there is a developing correlation between heavy social media engagement and lower technical aptitude. By focusing recruitment efforts on social media, Defence risks missing out on the very talent pool it needs to fill critical roles.

Rather than relying on social media, Defence would be better served by investing in more traditional outreach methods. Face-to-face interactions with recruiters at schools and career fairs allow for nuanced discussions about military life that social media cannot offer. Additionally, focusing on programs that provide tangible benefits to future recruits, such as educational scholarships or vocational training, is a more effective strategy than relying on flashy social media campaigns.

While social media may seem like an easy way for the army to connect with potential recruits, its disadvantages and potential pitfalls far outweigh the benefits. The lack of positive engagement, the prevalence of bots, conflicting values, the potential to create unrealistic expectations, and the tendency to overlook technically skilled individuals make social media an ill-suited platform for military advertising. 

Cover photo: British Army.

Lori V Burner

Lori is a serving analyst with a background in operational intelligence and systems analysis. They have a keen interest in communication studies, emerging technologies, and international relations.

Related posts

Thursday Warriors: Is it time to re-think Royal Navy training?

John Dorey

The Father of Modern Combatatives

Barry Drennan

Thinking like Sun Tzu – part 2, a series of 6 maxims

Wayne Hall