Maj. Brenton Pomeroy, U.S. Air Force
The Department of Defense (DOD) embraced social media and web 2.0 almost six years ago, yet many military units still do not utilize this form of communication.1 The DOD banned its use in 2007, but changed its stance after a 2010 Pentagon review of its risks and benefits, citing that its benefits outweighed the security concerns.2 I propose that many of the lower-level units across all branches of the military also need to reconsider the risk and value of adopting this modern form of communication. Units would benefit from mirroring the DOD shift in policy regarding social media.
The use of social media at the tactical level can benefit a unit in many ways, including in the areas of leadership communication, recruiting, family support, professional relationships, medical issues, training, discipline, and unit performance. Conversely, common risks identified include unprofessional content or behavior, network security risks, and operations security (OPSEC). Leadership in lower-level military units should easily be able to understand and value the benefits gained with social media while mitigating the potential risks to an acceptable level.
A quick review of the U.S. Army website social media directory lists 943 sites for active-duty units.3This leaves plenty of units unaccounted for in the social media realm. Additionally, many of the units had limited presence with only Instagram or Twitter accounts, neglecting the dominant social media platform, Facebook, which has 1.59 billion active users compared to Instagram’s 400 million and Twitter’s 320 million users.4