FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Social media sites have changed the way people stay connected, and the Army is part of that trend. U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and Fort Jackson are working to use social media to broaden communication across the Army and with the public.

"I'm excited that we are getting our story out to the American people," said TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. David Bruner. "There are folks who are intimidated coming into the domain. Millions of Americans are comfortable in Facebook and Flickr. The best way to tell the story of the great Soldiers and civilians who serve every day in TRADOC is to get the story where the people can see it. This also gives our stakeholders a chance to let us know when they see ways to improve the way we do business."

Army leaders are beginning to routinely tell that story through online tools such as official and personal blogs, as well as Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo and Flickr. On Twitter, for example, the Army and TRADOC accumulated a combined 2,530 followers since January.

Fort Jackson organizations are starting to develop a presence in social media outlets as well. Moncrief Army Community Hospital started a Twitter page to update patients about appointment openings.

"Twitter is an important social media tool that Moncrief will now be using to inform our patients of lost appointments, which in turn increases (available) appointments for our patients that (otherwise) would have gone unused," said Nichole Riley, MACH public affairs officer. "This will be saving our hospital thousands of dollars and makes it a win-win for every beneficiary."

The Fort Jackson Public Affairs Office is currently developing its sites on Twitter and Facebook.

"We need to take advantage of new media if it helps us get the latest information out to a sizable portion of our audience," said Karen Soule, Fort Jackson public affairs officer.
"We want people to continue to read the Leader and visit our Web site, but what a great benefit to be able to get the latest information out to people almost instantly."

Soule said the sites will post updates on graduation times and location, weather cancellations and other breaking news stories affecting the Fort Jackson community.

Another area in which social media sites have turned out to be beneficial is to enhance communication with family members.

The 171st Infantry Brigade has recently started a Facebook page for its family readiness group.

"As a commander, my focus is to develop a forum that allows my family members and volunteers to communicate," said Col. Karl Reed, 171st Inf. Bde. commander. "When I had a small gathering of the FRG at my home, it became apparent that 95 percent of the spouses already use Facebook... So we have established our FRG network on the Facebook page."

He added that although his focus is to provide a forum for families, it is important to recognize that social media sites are being embraced by the Army as a whole.

"As an Army, we have an obligation to tell our story in the spaces and places where our community is already engaging," he said. "Army leaders ... have been instrumental in developing leaders that leverage social media as a medium to allow soldiers to 'tell the Army story' and to facilitate the dissemination of strategic, unclassified information."
Editor's note: John Harlow works for the TRADOC Public Affairs Office.

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