Comparison of Social Media Platforms Used by the DoD

Article 6 min
Understand the purpose, pros, cons and guidelines for various social media platforms used by the DOD.

Social media is constantly changing. What is popular one year may be obsolete the next. A perfect example of this is Myspace, a pioneer in social media networks that surpassed Google as the most visited website in the United States in 2006, but lost its popularity in 2008. 

This lends to why it is difficult to choose the right platforms for your social media strategy to convey the commander's intent. Understanding the different platform categories, purpose, benefits and  guidelines will help make that decision process easier.

Platform Categories

Although platforms are ever-changing they all revolve around these following categories of information environments.

  1. Social Networks: Connect with people
  2. Media Sharing Networks: Share photos, video and other media
  3. Discussion Forums: Share news and ideas
  4. Blogging and Publishing Networks: Publish content online
  5. Bookmarking and Content Curation Networks: Discover, save and share new content
  6. Consumer Review Networks: Find and review businesses
  7. Interest-Based Networks: Share interests and hobbies
  8. Sharing Economy Networks: Trade goods and services
  9. Social Shopping Networks: Shop online
  10. Anonymous Social Networks: Communicate anonymously

DOD Used Social Media Platforms 

DoD Used Social Media Platform Comparison
PLATFORM Pros Cons Guidelines
Social network used to connect with people through entertainment, inspiration and information.
  • Largest user base
  • Followers are likely to become fans and support a brand they favor
  • Used as a medium to receive regular updates and share personal experiences
  • Content is in a format that people can identify and empathize with
  • Live stream feature enables real-time and more personal communications
  • Organic publishing tools that, via Creator Studio, are the best among platforms
  • Organic reach is severely limited due to algorithms
  • Content must be carefully curated in order to reach people
  • Keep posts short, under 200 characters
  • Include emotive visuals (i.e., image, video) for high engagement and traction
  • Keep in mind the changes to aspect ratio of visuals
  • Keep videos under 1 minute
  • Limit posts to a snackable amount; stay under 5 posts daily
  • Drive more traffic by sharing content from other sources, being sure to tag commands and their pages
  • Avoid click and engagement bait such as click through comment and including lines like, "Like this post...," "Share this...," or "Tag friends..."
  • Be sure to link to any outlets that are referenced and to include a visual
Media sharing network to share and story photos, videos and other media.
  • Free photo storage
  • Streamlined records management
  • Strongly committed user base that engages in comments/thread discussions on niche photography topics (landscape, news, analog, etc.)
  • Shrinking user base
  • Post high-quality images and be selective
  • Include 5Ws (who, what, where, why, when) in captions
  • Provide keywords to help users find photos in searches
Media sharing network used to entertain people visually by sharing photos, videos and other media.
  • High organic reach potential
  • Users are likely to log in daily
  • Brand engagement is higher than that of Facebook and Twitter
  • Instagram Stories feature encourage more engagement with the brand in real-time
  • Harder to drive traffic off the platform, links can't exist in the post and only within the profile
  • Include at least one hashtag for more engagement
  • Consider posting more photos than videos as photos receive more engagement
  • Use the story tool to further engagement
Bookmarking network used to discover, save and share content.
  • Long term engagement with users
  • High driver for traffic off the platform through links
  • Smaller user base
  • Reputation of being overrun with content focused on  makeup and food
  • Bombarded with spam and other affiliated shopping links
  • Boards should target the proper audience
  • Uploaded visuals should be specific and effective
Discussion forum to share and vote on news and ideas.
  • Excellent platform for message exposure and circulation
  • Effective when used as a conduit for collecting feedback and product customer service support
  • Extremely skeptical fan base
  • High amount of potential negative feedback
  • Supports anonymity, lack of accountability in shared information
  • Requires a high level of effort in monitoring and responses
  • Use a common and simple naming convention
  • Monitor to make sure the images and content are high quality
Media sharing network used to entertain and connect people visually by sharing moments through photos, videos and other media.
  • Reach younger users
  • Includes several features to enhance engagement with posts (e.g., filters, doodles, overlays, geofilters)
  • Followers can subscribe to receive notifications each time there’s a new post
  • Users can easily become brand ambassadors by snapping with products
  • Creates connections through a single story by collecting all snaps around a single event for all users
  • Content is fleeting making it hard to gain a following
  • Difficult to properly archive content
  • Lack of analytics
  • Keep content length short, videos are 10 seconds long
  • A record of content must be stored elsewhere
Social network used to connect with people for immediate news and updates on a particular subject (e.g., news, technology, celebrity).
  • Easy to directly connect with the media
  • Integrated with Google search as an “update” stream for more traction
  • Effective for content that is for immediate, newsworthy release
  • Robust set of publishing tools via Twitter Media Studio including Live streaming, live-cut, organic CMS and cross-posting features
  • Access to robust and insightful data, organically and via third-party APIs, for more agile, flexible and comprehensive agreements
  • Growth has slowed
  • A page must be very active to be effective
  • Keep to 280 characters max
  • Tweet often but don’t spam
  • Schedule tweets to spread throughout the day
  • Retweet to reach different time crowds, but avoid verbatim tweets
  • Use emotive visuals for more engagement and traction
  • Use 3-5 hashtags
  • Sound on videos should be optional
Media Sharing Network where more than 400 hours of video are uploaded every minute.
  • Large user base
  • High user growth potential
  • User sessions are long, can last more than 40 minutes
  • Hard to rank for search keywords 
  • Content creation is a large time commitment
  • 1-3 minute videos are optimal
  • Link and embed on other platforms for more views
  • Include 5Ws in description for better search-ability

Other DOD Guidelines

Regardless of the platform used, remember to follow these additional DOD guidelines.

  • In accordance with USC Title 44, Chapter 31: Records Management by Federal Agencies (U.S. House of Representatives, 2018), all web 2.0 content is a federal record and must be retained per the Federal Records Act and National Archives and Records Administration. Note that not everything requires accession but there should be a local export of posted content that leads to a permanent link of the content. Read the Guidance on managing social media records to understand how to maintain Federal Records for social media content.
  • Section-508 Compliance is mandatory on social media. Find more resources and information on the United States Department of Health and Human Services site.
  • All official social media sites within DoD must be registered with the department at the U.S. Digital Registry.
  • Provide a 'terms of use statement' for comment policy to ensure users know the rules and the penalties for any violations.
  • Link all of the unit's social media pages on the unit's official website.
  • Be in compliance with your service/unit's social media policies, as well as DoDI 8170.01 Online Information Management and Electronic Messaging
  • Ensure social media operators have completed their service/unit’s requisite OPSEC training at a minimum.
  • Do not violate Security, Accuracy, Propriety and Policy (SAPP).
  • Keep networks safe from malicious activity and take actions, as required, to safeguard missions.
  • Follow existing regulations on ethics, OPSEC and privacy, they still apply.
  • Never post any information that could be considered classified, sensitive or that might put military members or families in danger.
  • Document and report any impostor, unofficial,or parody accounts to the host platform.