Via a link on Ewan McIntosh’s del.icio.us feed, I came across this “profile” of a Royal Navy submariner on Bebo. I say “profile”, because it’s clearly been manufactured by a PR agency rather than being the work of the person featured - phrases like “The best bit about being a Submariner in the Royal Navy is the professionalism of the team around you” are a world away from your average Bebo profile. But if it isn’t featuring a real person, then there’s clearly been some work gone into making it convincing through the back story, and it’s also being maintained as well.
The idea of military recruiters using a service used primarily by 13-17 year-olds makes me slightly queasy, although this is at least fairly overtly about pushing the Royal Navy as a career. More interesting are the reactions on the comments. Many of them are questions about the RN as a career choice - this is a fairly typical example:
im join the navy as a MEO
i was just wondering what its like?
is it any good?
But then there are also comments that make it clear that just creating a profile on a social network is not the easiest of PR options:
sorry to ask but are you a real person?
you can tell its fake cos none of the ppl on his top friends hav him on theirs
And then there are those which are clearly negative:
Whatever turns u on I suppose! The Navy are struggling so much to recruit and keep people in. You must know yourself there are hundreds of submariners handing their notice in. They need more dedicated people like yourself….altho I’d be interested to know if you’re still so dedicated after another 5 years when you might have a family to consider leavin behind for 6 months at a time!
Clearly, this is engaging with at least some of the demographic, and it would be interesting to know how some of these comments are followed up, if at all. And there’s an interesting contrast going on here - on the one hand, military news management is becoming ever-more sophisticated with the use of “embedded” reporting; but here is an example of “letting go” of complete control over the message and allowing a series of conversations to take place.
What’s also fascinating is how sophisticated - and maybe even cynical - Bebo users are about this kind of exercise. It’s definitely not being taken at face value, which is a clear illustration of how this kind of social media is far from a “free lunch” as far as marketers are concerned.