Considering the transient lifestyle of most service members in the military, social media is a great tool for communicating with family and friends back home. But social media can also be a double-edged sword. As a leader in the armed forces, the public holds you to a higher moral standard. Something as simple as liking an inappropriate comment or posting a photo of yourself enjoying cocktails with family or friends can make it difficult for your subordinates to trust you, and even damage your career.
Captain Tyler Mitchell from Defense, Video & Imagery System, compiled a list of 5 social media tips for military leaders with personal accounts.
- Protect your unit’s brand – Like it or not, when the civilian community sees your posts, they look at you as someone representing the military. Many Americans know what rank equals in military status. Perhaps you should think twice before you wear your uniform for your next big profile picture. What you say on the Internet can be used for Uniform Code of Military Justice or UCMJ action if your organization sees fit. If you’re going to post comments to open pages, think about the themes and messages your organization wants people to know.
- Choose friends wisely – Who follows you on social media? What advantage is there to having all of your subordinates able to comment on your posts and see what you think constantly? Separate your business from pleasure while using your personal account. Before you engage in a conversation online, think about how that conversation would occur in uniform. This simple act will help you protect your subordinates and yourself from awkward conversations the next time you meet in person about irresponsible posts to the Internet.
- Know the capabilities of what you use – Understand the social media platform you’re using. For example, if you post a photo, you need to understand where it can be seen and who can see it. Be an expert and professional when it comes to communicating online. Take time to educate yourself on the various settings for your social media accounts.
- Set the example – If your subordinates visited your social media account, what perception would they have? Does your account reflect your talk about values and mission accomplishment? Are you a whiner? Perception is everything. Many service members and their families look at leaders as role-models. Think about the example you would like to set for the people that want to someday be in your position. Social media is a great opportunity to inspire people. Use it to your advantage.
- Tell people your expectations – It’s one thing to set the example but to tell your service members what your expectations are goes even further. Many service members are not told the do’s and don’ts of social media. Many service members are only trained on not violating operation security through social media. They post what they feel and sometimes don’t know about the implications. The more you engage service members early in their career and talk about expectations, the less likely you will need to deal with issues in the future.
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