Grow Conversations with Strategy & Planning

Article 4 min
Social media serves to entertain, inspire or inform users about issues, events or stories that may interest them. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow users to efficiently and quickly share content in real-time while engaging with other users. These platforms can bring a unit's story to life in a unique way and help build deep, lasting connections with supporters. Posting can appear effortless, but to be successful on any type of social media platform, planning and strategy are essential.

Social media is a powerful tool that connects your unit with your audience through conversations.

The elements of a social media post can be likened to the parts of a tree. The different features of each post (commander's intent, command messaging, theme and conversations) have specific purposes that combine to make meaning for the user and build a strong message. In relation, the segments of a seedling (roots, trunk, branches and leaves) grow together to form a whole tree.

Explore each element of the tree for more in-depth information about growing a strong message.

Click a target to reveal more in-depth information.


A tree with the main points of growing a strong message arranged from roots to leaves.


The leaves on the tree represent the post taking on a life of its own and expanding. The more leaves on the tree, the fuller it looks. The more a post is amplified (either through conversations or shares) the more it attracts people to continue the conversation.

Don't shy away from engaging beyond your pages; that extra-mile engagement can be incredibly beneficial and help build loyalty in your followers. Twitter is a prime example of how joining a conversation can help build relationships.

Conversations create a dialogue between the unit and its supporters, which is where engagement intensifies. While additional pictures, replies and shares steer the conversation, ultimately the focus is on what the audience wants to hear.

Having a comment strategy in place to grow conversation and reach is critical to having an engaged audience and finding social media success. This is one way social media platforms combat the ever-decreasing attention spans of users.

Before publishing, make sure replies:

  • Stay on topic
  • Amplify the story
  • Engage supporters
  • Speak using a consistent point of view. For example, an Air Force wing page would use the collective "we," but a page for a specific person (like the CMSAF page) would post in the first person.

An audience may want to focus more on entertainment or education, and conversations should be driven in that direction. This guidance helps grow the post to include more conversations and ultimately build more connections.


The branches of the tree represent the threads or connections that grow out of the trunk, or the theme of the message itself. These connections engage the audience and should be relevant to the message being conveyed. Relevance is key because social media conversations are based on meaning something to your audience.


The trunk symbolizes the focused message of the post that grows from the roots, or the commander’s intent. The initial post should reflect the theme and the audience that it is targeting.

When crafting a compelling post, it is crucial to blend commander's intent with audience expectations. Although the commander's message and intent are communicated through dedicated themes, it is important to remember that the audience has much more control over the information with which they are presented. The audience chooses whether or not to trust the platform delivering the message; this flows into how a conversation can unfold from a post. As the gap between content creation and content consumption widens, more focus must be placed on genuine audience engagement. Posts should be crafted to fit the needs and interests of the supporters. Like a tree trunk, they exemplify the strength of their roots and allow their branches to flourish.

Successful posts have three elements:

  1. Emotive Visuals: People engage with content that makes them feel a certain way.
  2. Identity Politics: People engage with content that aligns with their own social or personal values.
  3. Social Justice: People engage with content if they believe they can contribute to the conversation, meaningfully amplify the message or take action.


The ground around the tree represents the National Defense Strategy, which is the foundation of commander's intent.


The roots of the tree represent the commander’s intent. In the same way roots transport water and nutrients to all parts of the plant, social media posts should transmit the unit's overall message to users while fulfilling the commander's goals and objectives.

Commander's intent feeds priorities from the overall National Defense Strategy into the core of the post by conveying the commander’s overall vision. Without a clear understanding of this vision, the post can veer off message. The command message is the specific interpretation of the commander’s intent, and as such, the message may change from post to post. By rooting social media in the unit's identity, the organization will establish a longer life cycle for its platforms.

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