NATO's head of social: 'We need social media more than it needs us'

NATO head of social media Franky Saegerman has argued that organizations that ignore the power of social media run the risk of having their agenda hijacked.

BRUSSELS: NATO head of social media Franky Saegerman has argued that organizations that ignore the power of social media run the risk of having their agenda hijacked.

Saegerman, who has worked at NATO for 20 years, discussed how the organization has embraced social media as a means of controlling the message around its activities. 

Speaking at Wednesday’s Connect via Hootsuite conference, Saegerman said, "It is critical that you are out in-front managing your message so that you do it yourself; if you don’t, someone will do it for you and not always with the best intentions."

"NATO needs social media more than social media needs NATO," he added.

Despite the organization recognizing the value of social media on a corporate level, it limits itself to four official Twitter accounts and does not allow its staff members to have their own.

"NATO trusts it staff with missiles and rocket launchers, but they don’t really trust us on Twitter," Saegerman joked.

The alliance does have a separate social account for its secretary general to allow him to distribute a "personal message or angle" that has not been approved by 28 member states.

Historically, the organization’s Facebook account was used only as a "copy and paste" version of the website, but its traffic has rocketed since NATO changed its strategy in April 2013 to allow more creative postings.

"We are trying to do more brand awareness, telling people what NATO is all about, and increase online engagement and reach opinion-formers to amplify our messages and especially reach the younger audience," Saegerman said.

As an example, Saegerman cited a Facebook post about a 9/11 remembrance ceremony at NATO headquarters in which flags were flown at half-mast.

"Our press office wasn’t convinced this would fly or have any effect but it is still one of the most shared posts we have had," he said.

Its social media audience is coming from some unexpected locations. The top three nations in terms of NATO’s Facebook fans are Romania, Albania, and Turkey.

A large part of NATO’s YouTube audience originates in Pakistan. As Saegerman explains, "Not everybody likes [NATO], but they keep an eye on what we say and what we are doing."

This story originally appeared on the website of Marketing.

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