Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen discuss social networks

In Georgetown University’s Riggs Library, built in the 1890s and filled with with vast resources, about two dozen members from various U.S. military organizations gathered to discuss the military’s use of social media with industry and academia reps.

The event hosted by the University is part of DOD’s Armed Services Working Group on Social Media and consistently addresses the current and future roles the military is taking with social media.

“There has been an absence of our voice online,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Arata, a Public Affairs officer with the U.S. Army  “That’s why we’re here. And for the most part, people are saying great things about the services; these tools help get our messages out.”

A monthly lessons-learned session on social media issues and answers, to include what to do right and what not to do is the focus of DOD’s working group in which all services and the Coast Guard are represented.

Today’s sessions included presentations from the services about social networking and by executives from many organizations including facebook, an insanely popular social networking site. 

All military services are represented on the site which now hosts more than 200million users. 

The Air Force has undergone challenges with its facebook profile; however, we’re committed to revamping, rebuilding and rebranding the site to make it effective for those interested in obtaining Air Force information via social networks and have a new site in the development stages. Any ideas out there?

One organization that understands social media and its ability to provide truthful and transparent discussions is the U.S. Army which doesn’t censor its own facebook page, allowing any user to post comments that fit within a rough commenting policy. 

This is a basic building block of social media and their community of users can make positive or negative comments, correct the record on an issue if needed, share ideas and comments, engage employee communication, as well as encourage thoughtful debate on issues.

“Leaving up negative comments adds to the organization’s credibility,” Colonel Arata said about the Army’s facebookfan page which attracted more than 24,000 fans in about a month. 

Adam Connor from facebook’s Washington, D.C. office gave a good presentation on what organizations and people should do to stay in touch with people and also discussed how communication is changing.

“We’re a new space,” he said reflecting on his company’s mission: give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. 

Some stats about the site: it’s only five years old and is in 40 languages and if it was a country, it would be the fifth largest in the world. Only 60million of facebook’s 200million are in the U.S.

 

“There’s a new communications’ method now for the officer corps in the military, due in large part from their acceptance in college like the service academies,” Mr. Connor said due to the large amounts of college-aged users signing up.

Understanding the intricacies of organizational military communication, usually top-down, and how it fits in a social network will be interesting due in large part to the democratized information flow at a lateral level between users and organizations.