FORT LEE, Va. -Social media has reached a new heyday in the socially distanced world of COVID-19.
Military units and support organizations at Fort Lee are using it for training, command messaging, fitness instruction, morale support and so much more. Many are saying it has opened unexplored worlds of outreach and interaction, and they will likely continue their new or expanded social media campaigns after work and training activities return to normal.
With that in mind, there are several things administrators of official social media pages need to know in order to manage their accounts in compliance with Army rules and expectations. First, they should be familiar with the published references that are meant to help them such as the services’ handbook at www.army.mil/socialmedia and the garrison social media policy at home.army.mil/lee/index.php/about/policies-and-regulations (select “Installation” tab then “Personal Conduct” menu option.
As noted in the aforementioned references, there is a mandatory training requirement for administrators of official social media pages. The course covers ethical behavior, operations security and the dos and don'ts of social networking for DOD members, particularly when using government computers.
The following paragraph from all-Army message 058/2018 should be foremost in every page administrator’s mind when they’re deciding what to post. The guidance applies to personally held accounts as well.
“Army values require that everyone be treated with dignity and respect, and it is a critical component of the Army profession,” the ALARACT message reads. “As members of the Army team, individuals' interactions in-person and online reflect on the Army and its values. Those values apply to all aspects of life, including online conduct. Harassment, bullying, hazing, stalking, discrimination, retaliation and any other type of misconduct that undermines dignity and respect are not consistent with Army values and negatively impact command climate and readiness.”
Soldiers and civilian employees who participate in or condone misconduct, whether in person or online, may be subject to criminal, disciplinary and/or other corrective action.
“When engaging in social media, Army team members should apply the ‘think, type, post’ methodology,” wrote Robert Speer while serving as acting Secretary of the Army in 2017 “‘Think’ about the message being communicated and who could potentially view it, ‘Type’ a communication that is consistent with Army values, then ‘post’ only those messages demonstrating dignity and respect for self and others.”
Copyright violations are a common social media faux pas. Commercial music, video clips, photos and writings cannot be used without the owner’s or author’s permission. Adding phrases such as “No copyright infringement intended” or “I don’t own this music” does not absolve organizations from copyright restrictions; in fact they actually acknowledge awareness of material being used without permission.
As a side note, government agencies may not copyright products produced for official Army purposes, so it’s OK to share photos, videos and other content released by any DOD organization. The following website is a good reference for clarifying fair use and copyright questions: www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.
Another important consideration is visibility. Social media travels everywhere on the World Wide Web. That means operational security is of utmost importance. It is the process of protecting critical information – whether classified or unclassified – that can be used against the nation or its military forces. The practice of OPSEC prevents adversary access to information. Social media managers need to look at potential posts through the eyes of an enemy and deny that foe the ability to act on the information provided.
Essentially, good social media management revolves around a simple statement: “If you don’t want to see it in the Washington Post, don’t post it.” Furthermore, there must be regular monitoring. Ensure all posts are approved by the commander or a release authority such as a Public Affairs officer.
Be cognizant of social media, phone and camera features like geo-tracking that can give away troop locations. That feature can be turned off, and check the setting often to make sure it was not reactivated by a software update.
Also be aware of photo backgrounds and written statements that unintentionally give away sensitive information. Educate fellow Soldiers and family members on things they should not respond with or post on personal pages. Referring back to the ALARACT statement, “All members of the Army team” are responsible for appropriate social media conduct and OPSEC.
Michael Indovina, CASCOM Public Affairs Officer, offered additional advice for social media managers. He said taking the time upfront to develop a plan and determine what and with whom you want to communicate will keep your social media mission moving in the right direction.
“Social media is not a one-way communique,” he observed. “It is continuous, and it could be with one or many individuals. So, be ready to engage with your audiences.”
Social media managers should determine who their audiences are and what platforms will serve their needs based on offered features, popularity and posting limitations. They should have a list of goals and objectives.
“Next, build a basic social media content strategy outline,” Indovina recommended. “Develop a plan of information you are going to send, when you are going to send it, and build a calendar. Having a plan is key to starting any task or mission you hope to accomplish. The plan gives you a foundation.”