SOCIAL ORDERS: How the British military can help you use social media

So, if the Army can use social media what exactly is your excuse?

Just lately I came across a rather magnificent link to the MOD’s digital guidelines.

As a starting point for beginners or for the more advanced they’re pretty handy. The US Army Social Media handbook has been around for a while and it’s good to get a British perspective too.

You can find the link right here. The MOD social media hub is here.

What do they offer?

Well, it’s basically a pretty robust framework that strikes the balance between common sense security and telling stories. Frontline staff are encouraged to go via the chain of command to tell their stories. 

As the introduction says:

UK Service and Ministry of Defence personnel are permitted to make full use of social media (such as social networking sites, blogs and other internet self-publishing), but must:

    • Follow the same high standards of conduct and behaviour online as would be expected elsewhere;
    • Always maintain personal, information and operational security, and be careful about the information you share online;
  • Get authorisation from your chain of command when appropriate, and seek advice from your chain of command if unsure.

There’s some interesting social media presences that have grown over the past few years.

The UK Forces Afghanistan Facebook page has more than 12,000 likes and has a social approach with shots of servicemen and women. There’s a big input from families which is interesting to see. The feel is upbeat and focussed on the safety of the soldiers, sailors and airmen. The cover shot of a soldier waving to the Afghan passing by is unmistakably hearts and minds territory.

The Royal Navy Facebook page has more than 160,000 likes and seems more focussed on recruitment with careers advice prominent. There’s galleries of PR shots and links to the newspages.

The British Army wordpress blog focusses on stories focussing on individual soldiers. There’s stories of soldiers. Such as a recruit looking back on his basic training from postman to soldier.

A rather good Flickr page Defence Images gives a feed for shots with creative commons licences for re-use.

The Ministry of Defence blog is a useful round-up of links as well as news updates. It also covers the deaths of service personnel.

There are two voices that come through the MOD social media pages. First is servicemen and women themselves. Second are their families. This is less of a forum to debate and question the rough edges and controversy of war and it feels like a deliberate decision for this. But as a means for the MOD to talk to people direct this is an interesting resource that will only grow.

Of course, the great thing for those in the public sector is that the fact that they are doing it at all is a battering ram to break down barriers. After all, if the Army are doing it sensibly and with rewards where’s the risk?

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  1. I saw an excellent presentation from Richard Crompton, Chief Constable of Lincolnshire, earlier this year, in which he said “I trust my officers with guns – they can shoot people. Why should I not trust them with social media account?”

    We tend to forget that the Armed Forces and Emergency Services are part of the public sector, because their culture is so different from local councils. The uniformed officer on the frontline always has to be ready to knock on someone’s front door to tell them their son or daughter is in hospital – or, is in a prison cell, because they put somebody in hospital. There is no question that they are the public face their institution, and can be trusted to represent it. They don’t have to wait while several people approve a press release. Wer can learn from this.

    Also – since it’s Friday, and we’re on social media – let’s not forget the magnificent work of the ‘Support Prince Harry With A Naked Salute’ campaign! (Warning: naked men are naked)

  2. Good to read your comment and analysis, Dan. We in the Army find social media a great way to reach out to various parts of the public – including families of serving personnel, those considering a career in the Army, supporters in the UK and other countries, and so on. It’s a great, natural-feeling and immediate way of telling soldiers’ stories, and showing what the day-to-day life in the Army’s like. We aim to give something for everyone, whether they’re interested in just a particular regiment, whether they’re equipment or history buffs, or whether they enjoy reading about stories of exceptional bravery, conduct and achievement.

    The British Army’s main social media presences are linked to on the bottom right of the Army website, Our main social media success is our Facebook page (, which has over 870,000 likes and a high level of active engagement. And it’s a great way to find out individuals’ views and concerns, both positive and negative.

    As you say, social media does breaks down barriers. We continue to find it fascinating, and will champion its usefulness to any organisation that listens!

    1. Good stuff. Thanks for the links too. The US military have been doing some good stuff and putting out some good resources too. It’s great to see the British Army – and the other services – doing great stuff. I’m genuinely fascinated to see how the frontline stuff develops. This will open doors in other parts of the public sector too, I’m sure.

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