Protocols for emergency evacuations, disaster management were nothing new for the army – but now the Pentagon has issued a Handbook for Social Media, detailing how military personnel should use social media services like Facebook and Twitter. The Handbook has been issued by the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, Online and Social Media Division.
The 39 page handbook is a testament to the growing importance of Social Media, and how it should be properly and safely used specially by men and women in the army. The guide includes checklists for operational security, about what should and should not be shared online. Since its a given that anything and everything that is shared online can be accessed by anyone, the military wants to make it absolutely sure that no secrets or confidential information is leaked out on sites like facebook or twitter that the adversary could use to its advantage.
According to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston:
Our adversaries are trolling social networks, blogs and forums, trying to find sensitive information they can use about our military goals and objectives. Therefore, it is imperative that all Soldiers and Family members understand the importance of practicing good operations security measures.
The handbook details a lot of social features that could inadvertently reveal a lot of information about a soldier. This information could be about schedules and event locations, the use of geotagging, that could immediately reveal location. A strict instruction in the manual regarding geotagging states:
Soldiers should not use location-based social networking applications when deployed, at training or
while on duty at locations where presenting exact grid coordinates could damage Army operations.
While Soldiers are engaged in Army operations, they should turn off the GPS function of their smartphones. Failure to do so could result in damage to the mission and may even put families at risk.
In addition to the geographic location, photos and videos can also reveal a lot. The manual asks soldiers to thoroughly review their photos and videos before posting them online, as minor hints could reveal a lot.
In addition to discussing the security aspects of social media, the manual also gives valuable hints to handling requests for questions from blogs, etc, which should directed to public affairs officer. Furthermore, the Handbook also establishes guidelines to create Social Media presence, like setting up Facebook pages. The handbook concludes with case studies of effective social media usage, and show cases facebook profiles of Gen Ray Odierno and Lt. Gen. Helmick.
The handbook is a clear example of an organization realizing the growing importance of social media and of the need to have a social media strategy and usage guidelines. If you are an organization and don’t have a social media presence let alone, a social media strategy – may be its time that you think again.