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Does the defence industry utilise social media to its potential?

By Samantha Tanner, Defence IQ

Last week Defence IQ published a comprehensive report into how the defence industry uses and perceives social media. (You can read the Social Media in Defence Report 2012 here.)

In order to complete the report we surveyed over 100 industry professionals on their views of the use of social media in the industry and how it is perceived. We found that 40% of respondents found it to be very important that defence contractors improve their online and social media presence over the next five years, while 9 % believe it as not being important at all.

Earlier in the summer at Farnborough International Air Show I spoke with a number of companies about their use of social media. The majority told me that it was important to start working towards integrating it further in to marketing campaigns and the rest said that they had no interest with conducting any form of business whatsoever through these online platforms. There was no in between and everybody felt passionate about the direction that they were heading in.

Interestingly, one conversation I had suggested that social media would become an essential part of all marketing strategies once the new generation of directors takes over within the industry. Current directors seem to not want to know anything about how social media could be advantageous or believe that it is too complex to learn. Additionally, they are of the opinion that it is a fad. Interesting thought – but it’s pretty certain that social media is here to stay and will evolve.

So, with this in mind we asked what the biggest advantages were to multi channel marketing techniques. Over 68% of respondents in our social media survey believe that social media can increase brand awareness, 59% believe that it helps with the recruitment process and 56% recognise it as a chance to become a thought leader in the market. Way down the list with only 34% of respondents believing it was valuable was for collecting customer feedback. This part of social media, in my view, should be essential – after all the customers come first.

So if brand awareness, recruitment and thought leadership are the big advantages to using social media, why isn’t the whole of the defence industry using it? Well, as with the information I gathered at Farnborough, the sensitive nature of the business is what stops 53% of respondents and the risk of divulging too much information to competitors is the dealbreaker to 58%.

To me this doesn’t make any sense at all, especially when you see the amount of global Armed Forces using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube to promote what they are doing, to drive engagement and to effectively crisis manage for any disasters. In fact, you could argue that the information that the military could post online is more sensitive than that of the industry and they manage to do a fantastic job in doing so.

It may all sound like doom and gloom, but there are some within the defence industry which have been earmarked as doing a great job. EADS was highlighted as a company who were utilising social media, as well as Lockheed Martin, Saab, Honeywell and Raytheon. But what about the SMEs? Are they the companies which do not want to reveal to much? Or do they just not have the resource?

You can download the full Social Media in Defence Report here.

We’re keen to hear your thoughts – do you agree or disagree with this post? Email comments or article submissions to: or comment below.


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