Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr have changed the way information is transmitted worldwide. Lightning fast posts and responses give users the opportunity to always be informed. The instantaneous gathering and distribution of information by social media sites can help spread the Army’s message.
The U.S. Army Social Media Handbook describes social media as a way of telling the Army’s story honestly and directly to America.
“The Army is very much pro-social media,” said Brittany Brown, social media manager, U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs. “As a service branch, we have been lauded as an early adopter of social media and have been present in the social media space since 2007.”
The popularity and availability of social media has made it one of the primary ways to distribute information around the world.
During one week at Camp Arifjan there were 2,288,934 hits to Facebook and 8,086 hits to Flickr, said Capt. Jung Oh, 54th Theater Signal Battalion, Regional Network Operations and Security Center, officer in charge from Orlando, Fla.
Not only do social media sites like Facebook and Twitter allow for the spread of the Army’s message, it also helps soldiers stay in touch with their loved ones.
“Social media helps the Army better inform the American public, bringing the nation closer to the soldiers, families and civilians who serve them,” said Brown. “The Army is proud of its thriving presence on the information superhighway offering a wide variety of information forums prompting millions globally to share and lead important conversations.”
“I use social media to keep in touch with my friends and Family backhome,” said Spc. Lauren Davis, Third Army/ARCENT G1, executive administrative assistant from Haverhill, Mass. “Using Facebook allows me to constantly see pictures of my nieces growing up when we aren't able to Skype.”
With the accessibility of social media, service members always have the latest information at their fingertips.
“We encourage Army organizations to use the social media tools and platforms that our soldiers and audiences are already using to connect,” said Brown. “For example, Facebook had 955 million monthly active users at the end of June so we would be missing a huge segment of our global audience if we ignored this platform.”
Along with the many positive aspects of social media there is a darker side that soldiers must be aware of.
Social media is like a double-edged sword there can be issues with operational security, said Sgt. Nathan Strutz, 54th Signal Battalion, social media specialist from Iron Mountain, Mich.
Operational security refers to controlling the distribution of sensitive material in the Army. The fact that social media has the ability to reach a large number of people in a matter of seconds makes OPSEC more important than before.
“In June, we released the third edition of the Army’s Social Media Handbook, which is essentially a one-stop-shop for information about social media use,” said Brown.
Soldiers are reminded in the handbook that they are still members of the Army when they are logged onto social media sites. Anything posted on sites that is negative towards leaders or releases sensitive information can be punished under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.
“As our social media handbook states, once soldiers log on to a social media platform, they still represent the U.S. Army,” said Brown. “A good rule of thumb for soldiers is that if you wouldn’t say it in formation, don’t share it on social media platforms.” The handbook offers information about security items to consider when dealing with social media sites. The topics discussed are; privacy settings, sensitive information, questions to ask yourself before posting, geotagging, photos and videos and talking to your family members about their posts.
Some of the more common mistakes made by soldiers are overlooking simple steps like updating privacy settings and over-sharing information.
“Even items as mundane as listing your birth date, hometown or loved ones in the family section of a Facebook profile can put soldiers in danger,” said Brown.
Whether you are a seasoned veteran or you are just starting your first page, the Army has resources available to allow all users, new and old, to be safe and successful social media clients.
“Our soldiers are equipped with some of the most cutting-edge technologies in the world so it only makes sense that the Army use modern communications platforms to share and connect,” Brown said.
The U.S. Army Social Media Handbook can be found at http://www.slideshare.net/USArmySocialMedia/army-social-media-handbook-2012 .