Fort Meade\'s Facebook page fills with fans
To visit the page, follow the link under "social media" on www.ftmeade.army.mil.

Last week, the number of fans on the installation's Facebook page reached more than 1,000.

"We consider that to be a milestone," said Harry Lockley, chief of command information for the Fort Meade Public Affairs Office, who oversees the Facebook page.

Lockley said the first goal was to let the Fort Meade community know that the Facebook page existed. Now, with more than 1,000 fans - people who log onto the page to gather or share information - the second goal is for the Facebook page to become a primary communication tool for the installation.

"We want Facebook to be a place where people can communicate about Fort Meade," Lockley said. "This is a community page."

Facebook is a free-access social networking Web site that can be operated by an individual or business/organization to distribute or share information.

People who visit Fort Meade's Facebook page can find information about everything from the next Salsa dance lesson at Club Meade and installation closings during inclement weather, to news about the Fort Meade Tax Assistance Center and post agencies specializing in employment.

All of the installation's directorates, clubs and organizations, in addition to organizations off Fort Meade, are encouraged to post information on the page.

Lockley said such input makes the page "a vibrant place," and thus far, all of the postings have been positive. Any posting that is inappropriate would be deleted.

The Fort Meade Facebook page was first posted in July. "It's important for us to use all the different avenues out there so we can reach the community," said Mary Doyle, chief of media relations for Fort Meade.

In addition to Facebook, the Public Affairs Office produces the Fort Meade Web page, MEADE TV and Soundoff!

Doyle said the Web page and Soundoff! are where the installation provides information to the community on a daily and weekly basis.

But Facebook allows the post and the Fort Meade community to communicate with each other 24/7. The page can be updated by computer, cell phone or iPhone from any location, Lockley said, while the Web page, MEADE TV and Soundoff! require staff to come into the office to provide updates.

For example, during last month's major snowstorm, the public affairs staff was able to provide information on the installation's closing and nearby traffic conditions from home computers.

But Facebook's most important feature is the ability to provide information in real time.

When some Fort Meade residents were evacuated from their homes earlier this month, they posted questions on Facebook.

After consulting with the Directorate of Emergency Services and the Emergency Operations Center, the public affairs staff posted responses to these questions on Facebook and provided necessary information as the situation developed.

Lockley said the Facebook page was so helpful that the Public Affairs Office has incorporated the page into its development plan for future emergencies.

Lindy Kyzer, manager of the Army's Online and Social Media Division, said using social media outlets is not optional; it's necessary.

"If we want our information to be seen and heard, we have to tell it online," Kyzer said. "We have an obligation to tell the Soldier's story in the places and spaces our community wants to see it. Increasingly, that's online."

Kyzer said that four years ago, the Army's Office of the Chief of Public Affairs was engaged in several social media outlets, including YouTube and Flickr, but the efforts were "ad hoc and decentralized."

Last year, the Army created its Online and Social Media Division to place the Army's online presence - including its official Web site, www.army.mil - under one umbrella.

Today, the Army uses social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.

With 35,000 people living and working at Fort Meade, Doyle said she would like more people to participate on Facebook.

Prior to the recent snowstorm and housing evacuation, Doyle said maybe two or three people joined the page each day. But now, the Facebook page is "growing exponentially," she said.

While Fort Meade had 1,010 fans Friday, the number grew by Monday to more than 1,030.

"There will always be those who look to the newspaper for information," Doyle said. "But there are also those who look to the Web."

Page last updated Fri January 29th, 2010 at 14:40