Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 21

COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES Number of service members as if shouting from the top of a pyramid to the masses with what they learn from social, horizontal media. of people at its base.5 This article labels such media In this way, they create a highly personalized picture vertical. of the world, including determining the purpose and Senior leaders who rely exclusively on such tradivalue of their work (as well as the fitness or ability of tional vertical media to get their message across may their leadership). not appreciate how younger people at lower levels of As vertical media, such as newspapers and local teletheir organizations readily gain information and form vision, attempt to inform the civilian population about social connections in virtual communities, influencing the communities in which they live and work, likewise one another through social media relatively unaffected official military media strive to do the same thing for by vertical media intrusion. In contrast to traditionmilitary personnel. Figure 1 demonstrates the general al vertical media, social media provide users with an shift by age in recent use of vertical media such as newsindividualized flow of information that does not pass papers, network television news, cable television news, through an editorial gatekeeper. It is as if people were and a selection of social media.6 effectively communicating horizontally across the face Notably, people who came of age before the Internet of the previously mentioned pyramid at some level tend to prefer traditional, vertical media. In contrast, below the top. Hence, this article labels these horizontal digital natives—people who grew up with computers media. Audiences construct their picture of the world and the Internet—are more likely to meld information and the organizations in which they work from both sources without showing dominant vertical preferences. vertical and horizontal media. This principle applies equally to people within tradiSome senior leaders may be at a disadvantage because tional organizations such as the U.S. Army as well as the they do not recognize the enormous influence (and general public. challenge to their reputation or moral authority) of Figure 2 shows the age spread by rank with in U.S. social communities that form around social media such military forces.7 These age groups have been socialized as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Such social media provide 600,000 platforms for audiences to connect 559,342 to one another and to form virtual communities in cyberspace centered 500,000 on shared interests and tastes without an editorial authority dictating, 400,000 or even being invited into, the virtual community’s agenda-setting process. 300,000 The audience can choose. 254,399 Thus, senior military leaders would be well advised to recognize 200,000 155,117 that social media provide for more 89,837 horizontal and individualized flow 100,000 62,770 of information. It is as if people 61,508 54,144 were communicating face-to-face 48,654 42,947 31,611 0 on one of the levels of the afore25 or younger 26 to 30 36 to 40 31 to 35 41 or older mentioned pyramid. Age groups Social Media Individualize Messages Service members have freedom to select and meld what they learn from traditional, vertical media Enlisted Officers Figure 2. Distribution of Military Service Officers and Enlisted Members by Age MILITARY REVIEW  November-December 2015 19