Prior to the advent of the Internet and Facebook, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) employs traditional means of distributing news, announcements through the mass media, ie, newspaper, television broadcasts and newsletters such as the Pioneer magazine and the three respective arm’s newsletter. Just like any more traditional media, these forms are expensive, allows limited space for content, and it is a one way top down approach to information dissemination. Even with the introduction of internet, SAF’s official website offer little or no in depth information to the armed forces and its activities.
Compared to the US Air Force and the Australian Defense Force for example, they have vast image archive and properly written articles, by someone with relevant knowledge and experience of the subject. The official newsletter, Pioneer has gone from a military based magazine in the 90s to a combination of military and lifestyle magazine, and despite its cheap price and almost automatic subscription when one is in the Army, the paper back publication always ends up in most old newspaper pile. The entrance of Facebook into over lives has changed the face of the world. News are updated almost instantaneously, and the spread of news is like wildfire over social media. The power of the social media, or new media, including the likes of Youtube and Twitter, is evident, in events like the toppling of the Egyptian government in 2011.
Pioneer became cyberpioneer, entering Facebook in 2010, and since has 39,331 likes thus far. The boom of news coverage clearly surpasses its print media counterpart, with events such as ministerial visits, course graduations and exercises. At the same time, it provides as-it-happens updates on accidents/public announcements to the masses. High quality images not only allow more to be showcased, but also allow fans of the SAF to archive them for eternity. “Likes” garnered from the posts not only serve as a KPI for the managements, but also as a form of moral support from the people of Singapore. This is also seen in comments posted by the public, and questions can be clarified by the relevant officials.
Following the launch of the Cyberpioneer, the three services each embarked on their own Facebook accounts, the Navy , the Army and recently by the Air Force in 2013. Each are managed independently and now there a tons of unseen pictures not seen prior to the age of Facebook. The aded advantage of Facebook over other print media is the use of videos, with Youtube, cyberpioneer’s exercise videos adds on to the imagination and inspiration of the viewers. The launching of the HIMARS and the dropping of the JDAM on a moving vehicle is only to be achievable in the new defense media.
Having said all that, social media is a double edge sword, and must be moderated carefully at all times. As news breaks out, the flood of trollers and irrelevant comments will set back any good image the SAF is trying to portray. Moderators must be conversation with the Rules of engagement over the cyberspace and protocols in the SAF as well. While a PR nightmare has yet to happen in cyberpioneer, the efforts of the Mindef and Defense Media Centre has paid of in reach out to the community, and more can be done to improve the Pioneer magazine.