After discovering that the United States Army had a profile on Pinterest, we talked to the Army's social media operation to get some insight into what made them jump on the latest Internet trend. Hint: It has to do with ladies.
"We saw that would be a way that we could potentially reach an audience that we don't normally reach with our other platforms," Major Juanita Chang, Director of Online and Social Media for the U.S. Army told The Atlantic Wire. "We know pinterest is highly dominated by women... A lot of people that follow the military are men because that's the majority of the military. We want to connect and reach out to the female population and maybe the Army spouses and family members -- the people who wouldn't have any other reason to follow the military otherwise."
Perusing some of the Army's pinboards, one could guess the organization's lady-centric motives. Right up top we find "Chow" -- cutesy patriotic treats -- right next to DIY and Decor, and Army Style and Fashion, which, even as a historical look at military fashion, manages to have women in over half of the photos. There's a very conscious effort to relate to women, Chang tells us. "What would I want to share with my friends?" she asks when conceiving of possible pins. "We're going back to women in the '50s, pulling out those photos of the women with the bouffant hair. Look at how far we've come, that's something I would want to share with my military girlfriends -- how far we've come," she explains.
The emphasis on women—even if it carries a hint of sexism with its focus on clothes, crafts, and food—may change as the demographic of Pinterest evolves.Pinterest in the United Kingdom, for example, has attracted more men, so if the U.S. site goes that way, the Army will adapt as well. "In the UK there are more men that are interested in more science and tech stuff, I'd be interested to see that and see if we can get more men engaged," Chang said. "Who knows, maybe together we're going to build the future weapons system. Or, if everyone pins their ideas together we'll build the future soldier support system."
The current Pinterest board was conceived not by Chang, but by Brittany Brown, a 20-something, female Public Affairs specialist, who also handles the Army's Twitter account. Each of the four members of this social media troop covers a specific platform, with another 20-something, Ashley McCall handling the blog, 30-something Staff Sgt. Dale Sweetnam updating the Google+ account and Chang -- the eldest, clocking in at 40 -- overseeing it all.
This young office demographic, as well as the two civilian women in the mix, explains the surprising hipness of the Army's social media public relations operation. But, that's only part of it: The whole office runs on a different schedule than the rest of the military, operating on blogger time. "Social media is a 24-hour-a-day thing," Chang explained. "It is not something you can do 9-5. So we now post through the evenings, we now have someone watching and monitoring our sites on weekends." That level of commitment must be working: In just five days the Army's Pinterest following has jumped from 259 to 855.