The thriving network RallyPoint has flown under the radar since it started in 2012, but it boasts a detailed undercover peek into military life. As the company’s director of accounts, Brandon Charters, a former Air Force officer, says, “We probably have the most complete organizational structure outside of the Pentagon.”
RallyPoint is the first social network with over one million members dedicated to the military, according to Military.com. Here, active members, reservists, and veterans connect over war stories and service-specific advice, and large brands such as Uber, Home Depot, Verizon, and USAA can advertise directly to them.
According to a press release, RallyPoint recently opened up to civilian supporters. Marketers can now join to gain an understanding of the hopes, dreams, and habits of our nation’s military members.
Here’s how marketers can go about exploring this community—and what they can learn about the military along the way.
Before interacting, marketers should just observe.
This is more than a suggestion: it’s a platform feature. New members can’t comment or ask questions until they’ve accrued 100 “points” by responding to others.
This feature offers marketers an opportunity to listen, empathize, and relate, and stops them from leaping in with questions like, “what’s an attractive discount percentage for service members?” Instead, marketers might learn that it’s not about the size of the discount, but rather how it’s offered.
Discounts are appreciated most when they’re authentic
Service members show little to no entitlement when it comes to expecting military discounts, but respond best to ones that are combined with an authentic message of thanks and appreciation. This is likely due to the overwhelmingly self-sufficient military ethos which makes them reluctant to accept anything that looks like a hand-out, but flock to that which appeals to their service pride.
In a RallyPoint poll about how service members feel about companies who offer military discounts, 74% responded “I love it, and it means a lot to me.” Yet in the comments, the resounding sentiment is that they do not expect discounts, do not think companies are obligated to offer discounts, and sometimes turn them down unless they’re phrased as a genuine appreciation for their service or matched with indicators of authentic support like favorable veteran hiring policies.
They have their own language
Marketers here may at first feel like they’re wandering in a foreign land without a dictionary. Comments like the one below are not uncommon:
(Image Credit: RallyPoint)
For marketers, one place to turn for translation is to military family bloggers like The Happy Housewife, who provide terminology guides. However, avoid overusing acronyms — it can come off as inauthentic. Just understand enough to join the conversation.
The top influencers offer insights
RallyPoint’s point-system tracks everyone’s usefulness to the community, including their specific areas of expertise. This means that thought leaders who provide value, lead discussions, and influence the network appear on a leaderboard visible in the forums that they contribute to.
These are the people who are most likely to start popular discussions that matter to a wide variety of service members such as career advice, relationships, and current events. For marketers who are looking to understand their military consumer, these are key individuals to follow.
The best brands are part of the discussion
Sure, many brands advertise here, but the best of them aren’t just dangling a hook, they’re diving in.
Veterans United, for example, posts helpful articles such as “How do I begin the VA loan process?” Booz Allen Hamilton asks, “What ideas would you love to explore professionally?” Northwestern Mutual posts helpful advice in the finance section, and Bradley-Morris answers questions in the career section.
Even those who advertise still find something to offer that’s specific and helpful, such as as PricewaterhouseCoopers, which offers financial analyst positions to veterans ,and Dell, which offers a discount for all current and former service members.
These brands are doing more than asking for help marketing to the military — they offer value to the community, which is the best way to build trust and create mutual long-term value.
As Charters told Military.com, “the conversations that take place on RallyPoint couldn’t happen anywhere else.” It’s a rare peek into the military mind and for marketers, perhaps one of the best ways to authentically relate to their audience.