Not only does the US Army's Social Media Manual offer some of the best guidance on social media policies--for private and public organizations alike--it also offers one of the most succinct and on-target descriptions of what social media means today:
Social media represents a shift in the way we as a culture communicate. By using Internet-based platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube, social media provides new ways to connect, interact and learn.People no longer look for news; the news find them.And in the world of social media, the perception of truth can be just as powerful as the truth itself.The Internet moves information quickly, whether for good or bad.Social media, with a variety of available platforms, can instantaneously connect users within a global network, making the transfer of information even more pervasive.Today, social media use is so widespread and transparent that you may already be involved even if you are not actively participating.It is a highly effective tool for reaching large communities and audiences.But this substantial ability to connect with the masses is not without its risks.Using social media to spread information is becoming the standard, so it is important to understand the power, the benefits and the risks associated with using the various platforms.
Let's say you are a communicator, fire fighter, emergency responder, or public relations staffer and you see that your senior leadership just doesn't quite get this whole social media thing. You are worried about what happens in a big event but you can't get them to take it seriously enough to take action. Take the words from the Army Manual, post them on the bulletin board, put them in an email, stick them in snail mail if that is how to communicate with the uppers, but do something to get it in front of them. Don't tell them who it is from until they read it--they'll think it is some from crazy consultant like me. Then tell them it is from the Army and the Army not only promotes authorized use of social media, but provides some of the best guidelines available.
Think about it. How easy it is to screw up on social media if you are a soldier. Think about the deadly consequences. I think about it dozens if not hundreds of times a day as I have a nephew who I think the world of in near daily deadly combat in Afghanistan right now. I get emails, he writes on Facebook, and I have seen the policies at work first hand.
If the Army embraces social media with all its severe risks, you have no excuse. None.