US Military On Instagram

Social Web Tactics Releases Data On How The U.S. Military Uses Instagram

We all know how powerful Instagram has become. There are over 400 million active users on Instagram. Over 60% of users log in daily, making it the second most engaged network after Facebook.

With such a large audience, it is no surprise the both the private sector and government are creating accounts and building Instagram communities to engage their audiences.

Since Social Web Tactics has a large client base interested in business to government marketing, we decided to put together a detailed dashboard on how the armed forces of the United States use Instagram.

Click to access: U.S. Military On Social Media: Instagram

Specifically, we are interested in learning, “Who is most successful and why?” and “How can people communicate more effectively with our men and women in the military on this social channel?”

In our research we learned that some branches have been more active than others. For example, over a three week period the US Coast Guard posted 110 pictures and videos on Instagram, where as the US Army posted only 25. And yet, despite its slower rate of content production, the Army has the third largest following (after the Marines and Navy), whereas the Coast Guard has the smallest (15% of the Marine’s audience and only 30% of the next lowest military branch).

We also learned that the U.S. Marines, despite having the 4th smallest number of active enlisted (170,000+ based on 2011 data – only the Coast Guard has fewer), the number of people following the Marines on Instagram was almost 2 times greater than the next military branch, the U.S. Navy, which is at 559,000 (see chart below). And their posts routinely generate the most “views” and “likes” on Instagram.

US Military on Instagram - Government Social Media

However, post activity and followers on Instagram only tell part of the story.

Why Are The Marines Successful?

The US Marines Instagram account has a number of strengths.

US Marines Instagram - Military on InstagramFor starters, they have a highly passionate audience that loves to stay informed about the latest activities within the Marines. It is this loyalty that the Marine Corps focuses in on with content ranging from training mission photos and video clips, to celebrating the lives of Marines who have either fallen in combat operations or who have passed away. Marines love to celebrate their dedication and sacrifice to the Corps, and in defending the United States. The content on the Marine Instagram account reflects and fuels those emotions.

Another area of strength is how the Marine Corps uses Instagram video and connects it with their other social media platforms. For example, one very popular feature is “This Week In 15 Seconds.” The Marines run through a quick outline of 3 to 5 events or topics that are going on, and then direct their audience to the Marine Corps’ YouTube channel. Videos that highlight Marines laid to rest also are popular. Another are video clips from training missions, such as this jungle exercise that the Marines have hashtagged “#bassass15seconds.”

How To Engage The Military In Instagram

One of the first steps to consider is the type of content that resonates well with the military and its core audience. Military servicemen and women like to see their colleagues in action, especially when it comes to operating large equipment.

This Air Force video on the F-15 generated over 50,000 views.

This Army airborne video generated over 13,000 likes.

And this Navy video (one of our favorites), showcases the USS San Francisco’s 1,000th dive by using a camera attached to the hull of the submarine.

While most of us won’t have the ability to produce the same kinds of videos, there are opportunities to share that kind of content – provided that it relates to something your company is actively doing to support the armed forces.

Another way to engage the military on Instagram is to showcase your participation in MWR or Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities. Supporting our military men and women through these types of programs is not only important, but it also gives your company an opportunity to engage with them on a more personal level, as well as highlight those experiences on social media.

Social Media Data Going Forward

The dashboard we have created is meant to be a starting point in our social media data collection and analysis. We look forward to adding to the data and analysis over the coming weeks and months. The purpose of this data is to help citizens, businesses, and other government agencies understand what is of interest to, and how to communicate with, the different branches of the US military on Instagram.

If you have questions, or are interested in other data, please call us at: 703-362-1586 OR e-mail us at:


  • Michael Hackmer

    Michael Hackmer is the founder of Social Web Tactics. Born in Boston, MA, Hackmer has lived in the metro Washington, DC region since 1998. He specializes in digital marketing strategy, seo and sem, social media, merging online and in-person events for best engagement, business development and more. With over 15 years experience in government, non-profits, public and private corporations, spanning a number of industries, Hackmer has a unique wealth of experience. He currently resides in Ashburn with his daughter.

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