26 January 2021

Using the Meme Mafia to your advantage

The 16th Sergeant Major of the US Army Michael Grinston, has recently changed tack in regards to how he uses his official Social Media channels by engaging directly with military meme accounts and leaders of teams everywhere should take note.

From the  Drake meme, to the recent infamous Bernie Sanders image from the Biden Inauguration, Grinston has embraced the medium. More surprisingly, he has not just fired and forgot. He has been engaging in the comments section and continued to interact.

The underlying concept of physically being where your team members are, or utilising on-line platforms to engage is a not a new one. Most large organisations have Communication Teams, Public Affairs Officers or Social Media Specialists that have an endless supply of pre-planned and crafted content, and its these posts that become the ammunition of meme pages that appear in all industries, but none more brutal that the Military Meme Division. It's here that Grinston has identified the opportunity to engage with the hub of influencersa concept described by Chris Fussell in his book, One Mission

On a recent post, Grinston urged other leaders to take note and said 'This weekend, I took a big gamble and called the milMeme community to the carpet. What they brought was possibly one of the best command climate surveys you’ll get all year. If you’re in charge of Soldiers, you owe it to yourself to take a look through the comments and apply it to your formation. And if your first reaction is to try to go after current Soldiers posting here, then you should probably do some serious self-assessing of your priorities. We have serious problems in our formations - and it’s not mean pictures on the internet'

Top 10 - From the Green Notebook
Top 10 - From the Green Notebook

Other US Army Enlisted Leaders are also capitalising on the popularity of other mediums, none more so than Command Sergeant Major Michael Burke. Burke was key to starting the Podcast of the US 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Kill Tank Radioand has been a regular contributor to popular Mil Blog site, From the Green NotebookIn the top 10 read articles of 2020, Burke's articles Let Them Walk on the Grass and More Leaders Need to Get Punched in the Face were number 1 and 2 on the list.

These 2 leaders are great examples of how transparency and the willingness to be vulnerable in different operating environments can open up new lines of communication with your team. As Burke put it 'The audience didn’t care their Command Sergeant Major was defeated, they were excited to see a good fight and a leader enter the ring and take a punch to the face'. Grinston is risking the same thing entering the domain of the meme mafia, but so far the audience is responding positively.

Where is your team right now and what are you doing to engage them in their own environment?

This topic was also discussed on Episode 32 - Strategy, Social Media, and Culture Setbacks on the Ironside Leadership and Coffee Podcast

Written by : Ben Horton