U.S. Army Social Media


Army Leaders

It is time to get a seat at the social media table. You may be comfortable with the use of social media in your private life or it may be altogether new to you. Either way, one thing is clear, social media is not going away. Our culture has embraced it as an extremely useful tool for personal and professional communication, and the media is increasingly reliant on social media platforms for sharing news and engaging with their audiences.

Army leaders have always faced the challenge of communicating effectively with geographically dispersed Soldiers and Families, and leaders have traditionally relied on the press to communicate with the public. Today, leaders who face the same communication challenges can use social media to communicate directly with Soldiers and Families everywhere — as well as the general public.

But leaders who make use of social media should always keep in mind that social media engagement is most effective when the message is tailored specifically to the social media platform and its audience (or user base). And the effectiveness of a message should always be measured afterward to guide the design of future such communications efforts.

Remember, the more that things change, the more they stay the same. At its core, social media is a powerful new tool we use to communicate. What sets it apart from other communication tools is the freedom, immediacy, and breadth it can give our messages.

Educating your Soldiers and Families

Leaders have a responsibility to mentor subordinates on the Army’s values and standards, provide guidance on how to interact with the public and create an atmosphere of trust and confidence (both internally and with the public). Part of this mentorship is reinforcing that being a Soldier is a profession. As a professional, a Soldier’s private life carries weight into their professional life. Soldiers are expected to uphold the Army’s values in and out of uniform.

Understanding how Soldiers conduct themselves on social media is critical to providing guidance on how to behave and what expected standards are. Leaders should invest time in developing a social media presence, either as an individual or by personally being involved on the organizational account.

Army Senior Leader message about appropriate online behavior

Insight on social media behavior
  • Soldiers use social media every day. It is a part of their daily routine. It’s natural and important to them. Roughly three-quarters of Facebook users – and around half of Instagram users – visit these sites at least once a day.
  • In just a few years, the Army will have recruits who have known Facebook, which started in 2004, their entire lives. Many do not understand the difference between their professional identity and their online (personal) identity.
  • Younger Soldiers are more likely than their older counterparts to say they have discovered information about a colleague on social media that lowered their professional opinion of them, according to the Pew Research Center. Online misconduct affects morale, order and discipline.
  • Facebook is the most-widely used of the major social media platforms, and its user base is most broadly representative of the population, as a whole.
Dealing with online conduct

The most important thing a leader can impress upon subordinates is that Soldiers are representatives of the Army — on or off duty — regardless of whether social media profile indicates they are a Soldier or not. Army Command Policy (AR 600-20) states: “Hazing, bullying and other behaviors that undermine the dignity and respect are fundamentally in opposition to our values and are prohibited.”

Read about the Army's expectations for professional online conduct. Soldiers should be aware that Army Command Policy (AR 600-20) is punitive in nature and applies to in-person and online behavior.

  • Do you have a way for individuals to report inappropriate online behavior through your chain of command?
  • How often do you emphasize appropriate online behavior?
  • Is your PAO providing social media training as part of their media training?
  • What are the consequences for Soldiers who act inappropriately online?
  • Are you prepared to respond to a public, negative incident created by one of your Soldiers inappropriate online behavior?
  • Do your Family members understand how to be safe and appropriate on social media?

Extending your Message

How leaders use social media to communicate and support their goals has a direct impact on how far their messages reach different types of audiences. An effective plan creates a ripple effect on social media platforms.

Leaders can be the creator of the ripple and let it extend outward from an organization, or they can avoid the engagement and be caught in the waves created by an event.

More and more commanders are leveraging social media not just in garrison, but also in training and deployment environments to keep the public informed, to connect Soldiers and Families and to address negative news stories and inaccurate reports.

Who is managing your official social media accounts?

There are specific requirements for social media managers. Are you aware of them?

Tips for an effective social media presence
  • Have a strategy. What do you want to do with this page?
  • Use your authentic voice.
  • Answer questions and respond to comments.
  • Interact on a daily basis.
  • Connect with other Army leaders and commands and support their content.
  • Leverage existing discussions as an entry point for your messages.
  • Conduct scheduled analysis of efforts.
  • Post relevant content regularly, using a mix of your own and shared content, photos and videos.
Potential messaging topics
  • Unit and mission updates
  • Soldier highlights
  • Share news articles and add your thoughts
  • Explain unit role in national security
  • Community involvement
  • Set up “town halls” or Q&A sessions to connect with your community
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