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Army releases social media handbook

January 31, 2011

Good social media engagement includes good social media guidelines, and the latest government agency to make its own social media playbook is the U.S. Army. The forty page document reviews the rules of the road for engaging in social media, including tips for the average Soldier, tips for leaders, and guidance on establishing an official social media presence.

For the most part, the guidance you read is nothing new – play safe, be smart, and keep Operations Security (details about locations, military operations and sensitive issues) off of social networks. In addition to the usual points there are a few thoughts that stand out from other military guidance that’s currently out there, including cautions against self promotion and advice to allow personal social media accounts to be used to funnel updates to official channels in crisis communications situations.

Like many organizations, what the Army is offering up only amounts to guidance rather than policy. While certain points are grounded in policy most still fall under the category of best practice, and leave much to interpretation (what looks like self promotion to you might look like active community engagement to me). More important than the 2011 Army social media handbooks itself will be how it’s disseminated, and who reads it. With 20 pages of guidance and another 20 pages of text, it’s geared more toward command level leaders and public affairs officers than it is the average Soldier – who understands social media dos and don’ts pretty well, anyway.

Anytime agencies get the conversation going about social media policy and best practice, that’s a good thing. Gone are the days when it’s good to produce policy (or change your logo) without engaging your stakeholders. And with so much still unwritten when it comes to social media and government, it’s good that the Army is providing those who need it with tips and tools (including a number of handy checklists). The only thing that could be better is if they released it as a wiki. Or better yet, an iPhone app. But, I guess there’s always next year.

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