Earlier this month, the U.S. Army Social Media Handbook was released to the public. It is a solid guide of practical tips for anyone engaging in digitally networked dialogue, whether for personal or professional use.
Many of the tips promote networking caution in the interest of saving lives on the battlefield (and at home) and also to save individual and troop reputation. From a crisis management standpoint, I thought these eight tips were standouts:
1. “All leaders must communicate social media expectations…” (p. 4)
So many organizations provide protocols that define out-of-bounds online behavior for social networking. It’s probably equally beneficial to illustrate the expected behavior. This approach provides the most clarity if the organization is pressed to take corrective actions.
2. Warnings on geotagging and location-based social networking (p. 5)
These warnings may be obvious to protect troop locations. Perhaps it is less obvious to consider how this seemingly innocent location-disclosure can harm personal privacy or sensitive corporate information. As one example, keep in mind that hackers love to collect information – including where you’ve been and when – before they infiltrate.
3. Online relationships – keep it professional (p. 6)
Following this very obvious guideline can keep many corporate executives out of HR trouble, or out of the courtrooms.
4. “Leaders have a greater responsibility to speak respectfully and intelligently about issues they don’t intend to reflect on a command…” (p.6)
Although the Web provides a democratizing experience, this simple sentence is a great reminder that an organization’s leaders should be held to a higher standard, offline and on. As one literary luminary once said, “With great power there must also come — great responsibility.”
5. Make sure post-ers are current on all training (p. 7)
If you follow this blog, you know my belief that trained teams trump good crisis plans. So goes social networking. Too many organizations create protocols for employees to follow, which get forgotten quickly. Hands-on, recurrent training provides a better experience to set the proper expectations.
Again, the Army does a great job of using illustrations and examples to drive expectations, this time in the simple chart at the bottom-right of the page.
7. “You can’t force trust.” (p. 10)
One of the Army’s points here is that it’s best to have existing social media presences before a crisis occurs, to provide context to audiences who already care about you. In most cases (not all), the same is true for companies. Organizations active through social networks should consider the tone of current dialogue to determine — “are we setting a good precident that this space can also be appropriate to use in a crisis?”
8. Encourage people on scene (of disaster/emergency) to send information (p. 11)
The Army is riding a wave here, instead of swimming against it. In dire and urgent situations, a company would be wise to provide guidelines for employees to use smartphones to broadcast what they see, if it will facilitate the understanding or information flow of the event.
If you have thoughts on the Army’s handbook or these summarized tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments section below.