Facebook unveiled its all new “Timeline” view for the Facebook Pages of brands and organizations on Wednesday, ushering in with it a new era of larger, more conspicuous advertising across the website, and by extension, the rest of the Web, given Facebook’s increasing reach.
But among expected examples of brands that were given early access to the new Timeline in advance of the event, including Dr. Pepper and Ben and Jerry’s, was another organization with more firepower: The U.S. military.
“New Facebook Pages give government agencies, lawmakers, and political campaigns more engaging ways to tell their stories, and we’re excited to see branches of the U.S. military leading the way,” said Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s VP of U.S. Public Policy, in an email sent out to press and Capitol Hill staffers. “We’re eager to see others join the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard in embracing new Pages to better to connect with citizens, provide information, and deliver services.”
Indeed, the pages of all five major branches of the military were live as of Wednesday, showing off large photos of various soldiers and service members in action-packed poses, and historical data charting the branches’ greatest victories and tragedies.
“We were intrigued about the ability to present our content in a unique and different way, in a more visually appealing fashion, allowing fans look at past posts and draw on historic information,” said Lt. Commander Chris Servello, the director of emerging media for the U.S. Navy, in a phone interview with TPM.
That said, when asked whether the Navy would begin using the new advertising features available to brands — one of which includes an enormous ad that appears as users log out of the social network — Servello said “not yet.”
“One of the biggest features that jumps out to us is the real estate for photos up top,” said Servello, referring to the “Cover Photo” feature at the top of Facebook Pages and Profiles. “That really grabs people, and it’s something we’re working to utilize. For example, if there’s some breaking news or something else we want to push, we can put it there. It’s almost getting into newspaper techniques.”
One of the posts that was featured on the page Wednesday was helmet-camera video footage taken by a member of the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, jumping out of a plane at night over an undisclosed city.
Servello also said to watch the page as the Navy rolls out historical content to celebrate its trial-by-fire and quick rise to prominence during the War of 1812.
“What we’ve been doing the past two weeks in advance of the launch of the new page is taking historic content from a web 1.0 environment and importing in into a web 2.0 environment,” Servello said.
That said, as much as the Armed Forces have been quick to embrace the new pages, it’s worth pointing out that the military has not always had it easy with social media. Though many military families use social media to stay in contact while troops are away from loved ones, recent incidents like the video of Marines urinating on Taliban fighters that surfaced on YouTube exemplify the difficulties of controlling the message broadcast over the medium while still maintaining freedom of expression.
The military has ever warned that oversharing on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Myspace and the like could put Special Operations at risk, but at the same time, expressly permitted personal sharing and use of social media by troops in a “social media handbook” document.
“We encourage folks to post and share content within our core values, which basically revolve around common decency,” Servello told TPM. “We encourage our sailors to do the same thing.”
Servello also noted that the Navy did reserve the right to delete comments of its Facebook Page that went outside those standards or were off-topic.
Correction: This post originally stated that the Marine Corps Facebook Page wasn’t live on Wednesday. In fact, it went live at 8 am here. We have corrected the error in copy and regret it.