By Mr. (AMCOM)May 12, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--When Lisa Oliver, administrative support specialist in the AMCOM/Garrison Public and Congressional Affairs Office, was without electrical power in the aftermath of the April 27 storms that ravaged the Tennessee Valley, she knew there was one form of communication she could count on.
"I knew I could log on to Facebook on my iPhone to find out if my friends and family were all right, and to learn about what was going on around me," Oliver said. "Once I knew that, I checked in with our Redstone Facebook page to make sure the post was OK and whether I was supposed to come into work."
In the case of Redstone and the Army, this is not your teenager's Facebook page.
Team Redstone's official social media platforms include:
During the week of recovery, repair and response, Redstone's official Facebook "Fan" page (www.facebook.com/teamredstone) and Twitter feed (www.twitter.com/teamredstone) became clearinghouses for up-to-the-minute news and information pertaining to Redstone's status in the wake of the storms. Media advisories, videos, press conference notes and news clips were constantly updated on each platform, serving as a valuable communications tool for Garrison commander Col. John Hamilton to "speak" with the public.
"A critical component of all the things we had to do in the aftermath of the storm was to communicate with our work force," Hamilton said. "Of course, the storm's damage to the local infrastructure made that much more difficult, but we have found that sending messages across a wide variety of media helped mitigate the challenge. Social media, like Facebook and Twitter, that are accessible from handheld devices are incredibly valuable resources in these type situations."
And the public appears to agree. From April 28 until May 4, the Team Redstone Facebook page - managed by the AMCOM/Garrison Public and Congressional Affairs Office - saw a 300 percent increase in the number of "fans" (users who chose to have Team Redstone updates appear on their Facebook home page). In addition, the page averaged 99,950 post views each day over those seven days.
The Team Redstone Twitter feed, which provided the same content as the Facebook page, saw a 63 percent increase in followers (users who chose to have Team Redstone updates appear in their news feed) over the same period. The microblogging site, where posts are 140 characters or fewer, is a popular tool for forwarding links and truncated messages to other official user sites.
These official platforms, along with the video-sharing site YouTube (www.youtube.com/TeamRedstone) and the photo-sharing site Flickr (www.flickr.com/teamredstone), all serve as tools to quickly and efficiently update our troops, work force, and the general public on Redstone news. Each Team Redstone platform is accessible to users whether they have an account for the site or not, and serve as tools the Army embraces as innovative and engaging channels for information, especially in times of crisis.
"Our public relies on social media to receive information in our near-instant news cycle, and Redstone's presence there gives us the opportunity to give the audience the information in a way they are accustomed to receiving it," Kim Henry, deputy for public and congressional affairs at Redstone, said. "During the recent storms, recovery and the process of the work force returning to Redstone, it was an instant way to keep communication open and flowing to the people that needed it whenever they wanted it. It gives our audience a chance to interact, provide feedback, ask questions, receive command messages and become part of an online community."
The U.S. Army's Online and Social Media Division was formed in January 2009 at the Department of the Army's Office of the Chief of Public Affairs. The division provides support, guidance and operational security training to public affairs specialists and commanders throughout the Army, along with managing all the official social media platforms for the service.
In February 2010 the Department of Defense issued guidance for Responsible and Effective Use of Internet-based Capabilities, which included social media platforms and recognized those tools as integral command communication channels. That memo empowered DoD networks to configure their systems access to those sites while continuing to stay vigilant and protect against malicious activity from all parts of the Internet.
While that access is currently available on some parts of Redstone and is being implemented on others, a majority of the audience for those platforms is outside the gates.
"We encourage everyone to get connected to one of these forums now so we are more ready for any future events," Hamilton said.
And for Oliver, those forums and connections gave her piece of mind in the wake of tragedy. "My friends and family were all right, and I knew when I needed to come to work to continue to serve our Soldiers," she said. "I'm part of that community."