Feb 12 2013

Army Takes a Proactive Stance on Social Media with 2013 Handbook

Army encourages social media use, but with caveats unique to the military.

The Army recently released its 2013 social media handbook, which outlines the policies on social engagement, for military leaders as well as soldiers on the ground. It’s notable that the Army is proactively engaging its members and even encouraging them to use social media. The full report is 52 pages long, so we’ve excerpted a few key points and also embedded the full document, below.

Why Should the Army Use Social Media?

Communication is key for the military, and social media is simply a new platform. While the Army’s communications are often not meant for the public, social media stands to be an effective tool for recruitment, awareness and public relations. As the government becomes more open in the age of digital information, more agencies will need to outline their strategies in the same way:

Every time a member of the family joins Army social media, it increases the timely and transparent dissemination of information. It ensures that the Army’s story is shared honestly and directly to Americans where they are and whenever they want to see, read or hear it. Social media allows every Soldier to be a part of the Army story and it allows America to connect with its Army. Social media is a cheap, effective and measurable form of communication. The Army uses social media to tell the Army’s story, but it also uses social media to listen.

Listen Before You Post

It is encouraging that the Army is promoting two-way communication via social media rather than using it as a loudspeaker. If they hope to truly engage the public, the Army will need to practice what it preaches:

By reading the comments on a Facebook wall or blog post, social media managers can get a feel for what the online community wants to hear. It is also useful to talk to your audience directly. Ask for feedback and suggestions, and then act on their responses. A social media presence accomplishes very little if the audience is not interested in what is being said.

The Enemy Is Listening

Social media not only allows the Army to engage fans but also lets enemies eavesdrop. The social media handbook makes this abundantly clear and offers guidelines for using social websites safely:

In order to maintain OPSEC (operations security), it is important to remain vigilant at all times. Sharing seemingly trivial information online can be dangerous to loved ones and fellow Soldiers—and may even get them killed. America’s enemies scour blogs, forums, chat rooms and personal websites to piece together information that can harm the United States and its Soldiers. Never accept a friend request from someone you don’t know, even if they know a friend of yours. Don’t share information that you don’t want to become public. Someone might target you for working in the DoD, so be cautious when listing your job, military organization, education and contact information. Providing too much information in your profile can leave you exposed to people who want to steal your identity or sensitive operational information. Understanding what you can and cannot post on social media platforms goes a long way in protecting your- self online, but more can be done by adjusting your privacy settings.

The Army addresses these topics in great detail and also guides users through setting up official military accounts, branding, and managing crises. There are also several case studies to help end users understand the risks involved with social media. It is a thorough and helpful document that all government agencies can learn from. The document can be viewed in full, below: