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How The Defense Industry Is Using Social Media

The first-ever analysis of the defense industry's use of social media has been published by DefenceIQ.

social media in defense industry.png

DefenceIQ, the UK-based multi-media news source on global defense and military-related topics, recently surveyed defense industry professionals about the use of social media in the defense industry. The report focused on the commercial sector, "considering what benefits, if any, social media offers to defence contractors and organizations."


A clear majority of respondents (62%) feel it is very important that defense contractors improve their online and social media presence in the next five years.

 ...the defence industry is aware of social media’s growing significance as a real­‐world business tool as well as the need to embrace it more fully in future.

Outreach efforts topped the list of benefits to defense contractors using social media:

benefits of social media for defense industry firms.png

A generational divide exists on the understanding and acceptance of social media in the defense industry:

When this generation of internet savvy children become the decision-­makers of the future, not having a robust online presence with an engaging and spirited social media policy would be, at the very least, ignorant. Like it or not, in one form or another, social media is here to stay.

About one-third of respondents fear that social media can make them a "nexus of hatred." This is common when, for instance, a defense contractor sets up a Facebook page and has no social media strategy beyond that, according to Patrick Herridge, co-founder of social media monitoring firm Social360 Ltd.

Social media enables companies to hear the unvarnished truth of what is being said about them. According to Herridge:

Corporates want to know what investors are saying on bulletin boards, they want to know what staff are saying about what they’re doing, they want to know what protestors are doing outside their offices.

Defense contractors have potential detractors, but it is better to engage in social media than to hide from them. Or, to borrow a military maxim, "the best defense is a strong offense."

Defence contractors will possibly receive disparaging messages and attract unwanted comments on social networks. But then so might any company, in any industry.

Other "lightening rod" industries include the alcohol, financial services, pharmaceutical and chemical industries - all of which have a more active social media presence.

The nature of these industries means that there will always be those that disapprove. However, that minority should not be allowed to cloud what could be an active, appealing and valuable social media strategy.

Over half the defense contractors surveyed plan to increase their commitment to social media:

 defense industry social media plans.png

Additional Background

Andrew Elwell, DefenceIQ Editor-in-Chief, said there were two primary reasons for fielding the study and producing the report:

  • While there has been research and analysis of the use of social media by the military, there has not been as much coverage of the commercial side of the defense industry.
  • A growing number of defense contractors have demonstrated an interest in and willingness to use social media, although it's still unknown territory for many in the industry.

One of the most promising findings from the survey was the positive attitude toward the use of social media by defense contractors. One possible outcome of the study could have been a large number claiming "there's no benefit" to social media. However, when the survey results were tallied, only about 5% of respondents held that view. In addition, respondents underscored that defense contractors do not face social media challenges unique to their industry.

...I was really surprised that so many people said that, essentially, the defence industry faces the same problems that any industry does. I expected quite a few people to say that social media can never work for defence because of x, y and z – but it didn't happen. The consensus was that if other industries can get over these issues and deal with them, so can defence. -Andrew Elwell

Click here to download a copy of "Social Media in Defence 2012" or view the SlideShare presentation below.

The Principal and Founder of Artillery, Douglas Burdett is a former artillery officer and Madison Avenue ad man. He also hosts The Marketing Book Podcast, where he interviews authors every week about the latest in modern marketing and sales.

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