Marines seeking recruits invade MySpace
Tim Carver didn't hesitate to link his MySpace.com profile page to the Marine Corps' latest high-tech recruiting effort.
"Both my grandfathers served in Korea," said Carver, 17, of South Park, Allegheny County, who is considering enlisting with the Marines before pursuing a degree in criminal justice.
"I've always liked the Marines. I've always respected the military. It's cool to be linked with them."
Carver joined more than 14,000 others who have posted their personal profiles on MySpace as friends of the Corps.
The South Park High School senior might enlist in November when he turns 18, although he said his parents are "sketchy" about him making that commitment because of the war in Iraq.
MySpace.com is the Internet's most popular social networking site.
Users, many in their teens and 20s, post personal profiles and accumulate lists of friends and contacts with common interests.
Carver has received messages from as far away as Argentina since the profile listing his interests and activities went online.
The Marines' page gets the attention of Web surfers, but they can't enlist online, said Sgt. Thomas Lance, 26, public affairs officer at the Marine Corps recruiting station in Pittsburgh.
Users can open the Marines page and click on a tab titled "Contact a Recruiter" that directs them to the MarineCorps.com site, where they can fill out a form so recruiters can arrange to meet them.
Lance said it makes sense to try to reach kids on the Internet because they spend so much time on the computer.
"Today's kids are spending more time on the Web, and it makes sense to advertise there ... more than radio or TV," he said.
The Internet allows advertisers such as the Marine Corps to tailor their messages to hard-to-reach groups, said Brooke Ewing, 27, media planner at Labwerks Inc., a Pittsburgh marketing and communication company.
"It's really hard to reach that group of high school kids. They don't read the newspaper or watch the news," she said. "It's a very small age group."
Six people have clicked on the Marines link from MySpace in the Pittsburgh region since April, Lance said. No one has enlisted.
The Marines also advertise on Military.com, ESPN.com and SportingNews.com, he said.
The Military.com Web site has attracted 17 recruits in the Pittsburgh region, Lance said.
The ESPN site has attracted two recruits.
More than 50,000 people have visited the Marine Corps page since it was launched on MySpace in April, the Marines said.
The Marine Corps is not the first branch of the military to use the popular Web site.
The Army started advertising on MySpace in January, but pulled its ads in February amid concerns that sexual predators were using the site, said Louise Eaton, media and Web chief for the U.S. Army Accession Command at Fort Knox, Ky.
The Army will be back on MySpace soon.
"We're satisfied that MySpace has installed adequate safeguards," Eaton said. "We will have an Army profile page up probably in September."
The Air Force places regular ads on MySpace but doesn't have a profile. The Navy hasn't used MySpace.
Marine Corps recruiters are still pursuing more traditional ways to reach out to potential recruits, such as visiting schools and sporting events. "Recruiters come to the school, but modern technology, I guess, is the way to do it," said Frank DiPasquale, guidance counselor at South Park High School.