CAMP HUMPHREYS, REPUBLIC OF KOREA - The U.S. Army Installation Management Command recognized USAG Humphreys today with a first place award in the 2011 Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Public Affairs Competition for "Outstanding Initiatives in New Media," at the IMCOM-level.

"This award is a real testament to the success of our social media communications strategy and overall public affairs program," said Col. Joseph P. Moore, USAG Humphreys commander, "but what I'm most proud of is the teamwork across the garrison that went into achieving this accomplishment."

According to Moore, engaging the community via social media sites like Facebook and Twitter has made it easier for him to share news and information, announce post status updates, answer questions and work with community members to collectively resolve problems in an open and transparent online venue.

"In the past, community members might have had to wait for the next town hall meeting, before they could voice their concerns, and that often lead to frustration," said Moore. "By opening up lines of communication in the online world and addressing issues as they happen, Facebook has become the garrison's de facto, 24/7, town hall meeting -- and that's a good thing for everyone."

The ability to communicate rapidly via social media has proved particularly important for the garrison, as it transforms to become the largest Army installation in Asia.

Home to the 2nd Infantry Division's combat aviation brigade and the Army's most active airfield in the region, the number of Soldiers stationed at Humphreys is expected to grow in the coming years by 238 percent, from 6,670 to 22,497, and the number of families is on track to grow by 1,270 percent.

As part of its transformation, U.S. Forces Korea will relocate from areas in and north of Seoul, to two enduring hubs south of the Han River; the northwest/Pyeongtaek hub, consisting mainly of USAG Humphreys and Osan Air Base; and the southeast /Daegu hub, comprised mainly of USAG Daegu and Chinhae Naval Base.

"We are now home to the largest construction site in the history of the Army," said Steven Hoover, the garrison's chief of command information and a Facebook aficionado. "During this period of rapid transformation, being able to effectively communicate construction updates, road closures, service provider moves, grand openings and other construction-related news and information would simply not be possible without using all of the social media tools at our disposal."

Hoover believes the role social media plays in distributing news and information will continue to increase on par with the growth of the garrison.

"Our newspaper remains an important part of our communications strategy, but it's only printed once a week and can't always keep up with the pace of activity on the installation," said Hoover. "We specifically designed the garrison's social media network in a modular fashion, to ensure it expands with the garrison and remains relevant throughout the transformation process."

According to Hoover, the overall success of the garrison's social media initiatives is due in large part to the active role taken by the garrison's commander, his deputy and other members of the garrison staff, in interacting with the community on sites like Facebook.

"On a daily basis, either the commander or someone else from the command group is on Facebook fielding questions from our community and responding to comments and concerns," said Hoover. "This active involvement by our leadership goes a long way in building trust and confidence with our audience, because they know their voices are being heard by the people who can help them."

Hoover also made the observation that the popularity and growth of the garrison's social media network's audience base appears to be accelerating.

"Over the past year our Facebook audience has grown by 70 percent and more members of the community are turning to social media for their news and information than ever before," said Hoover. "I'm really blown away by the number of people who are visiting our social media sites, joining our online discussions or sharing photos and videos from our online archives."

According to data collected by YouTube and Flickr, the garrison's online video channels and photo archives are among the most visited social media sites in the Army.

"We've now uploaded more than 22 thousand photos to our Flickr photo sites and they've been viewed more than seven million times. Our videos on YouTube are also being viewed at a rate of about 100,000 times a month - these are big numbers," said Hoover. "Just yesterday, we uploaded 234 photos from one of our weekend events, and they've already been viewed more than 12,000 times."

According to Hoover, one of the advantages of social media over traditional media platforms like newspapers, television or radio, is the ability to measure analytical data, site traffic, viewer preferences and trends.

"Being able to measure what works and what doesn't, has really helped us ensure we're providing the news and information people need - when and where they want it," added Hoover.

While the garrison's social media network was primarily designed with its local community in mind, it is also used to share news, information and multimedia products with a world-wide audience.

"We currently publish videos to several sharing sites like YouTube, Break and Dailymotion," said Cpl. Han, Jae Ho, a Korean Augmentation to the United States Army Soldier and member of the garrison's social media communications team. "These sites are really useful in distributing newcomer and welcome videos, and it's a lot less expensive to use them than producing and distributing DVDs the old fashioned way."

As part of his daily routine, Han is responsible for selecting and uploading photos to the garrison's Flickr image archive, as well as publishing content from the Morning Calm Newspaper to social media sites like Scribd and Facebook.

"These tools are really powerful and it's an honor to be serving as part of this team." said Han. "Working as a social media communicator has definitely opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me."

While the garrison's social media network has already proved to be a successful tool in communicating with local, regional and world-wide audiences, garrison officials say their work is far from over.

"We're currently expanding our social media infrastructure to meet the needs of our growing community and testing new automation tools to improve the way we update our sites and push out information," said Hoover. "But of course, it's not just about the technology, it's also about ensuring we do everything in our power to build open, honest, transparent and meaningful online relationships with our audiences here and around the world."

The garrison's social media entry, along with IMCOM's other winners, will now go on to compete alongside winning entries from other major Army commands, at the Department of the Army level.