Story by Capt. Tyler Mitchell
INDIANAPOLIS – Five years ago an article like this probably wouldn’t exist because so many leaders in the military either didn’t understand social media or didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Times are changing. Facebook alone now has more than 1.44 billion active monthly users, many of which are leaders in the military community. Leaders are people too. They want to share information and communicate like anyone else. Leadership comes with responsibilities. As a leader, you need to consider what you post onto your personal account. Here are five tips to help you use social media on your personal time while being employed by the military.
1) 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 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.
2) Choose friends wisely
Who follows you on social media? What advantage is there to have 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 if that conversation would happen in uniform. Doing this will help you protect your subordinates and yourself from awkward conversations the next time you meet in person about irresponsible posts to the Internet.
3) 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. Essentially, you need to go hard or go home. Be an expert and professional when it comes to communicating online. Take time to educate yourself on the various settings for your chosen social media.
4) Set the example
If your subordinates visited your social media account, what is the perception they would receive? Does your account reflect all of your talk about values and mission accomplishment like the way you talk at meetings? Are you a whiner? Perception is everything. Many service members and their families look at leaders as role-models. Think about what example you 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.
5) Tell your people your expectations
It’s one thing to set the example but to tell your service members what the 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 training on not violating operation security through social media. They post what they feel and sometimes don’t know about the implications. If 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.