The USN recognizes that the conversations will happen online, with or without guidelines. Rather than fighting social media, the Navy has instead chosen to promote social media usage throughout the ranks.
US Navy leaders have identified social media as an opportunity for recruitment. The influence of sailors sharing their stories online on recruitment efforts. Brilliant.
The policy speaks specifically to social media best practices... sharing facts, admitting mistakes, protecting the organization, and behaving appropriately.
The guidelines open with:
The Navy encourages service members to tell their stories. With fewer Americans having served themselves in the military, it is important for our service members to share their stories of service with the American people. Not surprisingly, this makes ever blogging, tweeting or Facebooking Sailor an ambassador for your command and the Navy. Educating our Sailors and personnel about how to maintain the integrity of this ambassadorship is important.
Every organization outside the military should pick up a copy of this comprehensive handbook and model their own employee guidelines around it. Here's the Navy Command Social Media Handbook (click through if you can't see it):
I just returned from BlogWorld today... whose sponsors included the US Army. The first keynote to the conference was General Petraeus explaining the importance of social media and the impact that it's having on the military. The General welcomed the opportunity that open communications is bringing, both to spread the truth about our missions and sacrifices throughout the world, as well as the impact these technologies are having on the morale of the personnel.
We've come a long way since my days in Desert Shield and Desert Storm... when I used to have a couple minutes a week connected by HAM radio... with a Radioman on one side of me and a volunteer HAM radio operator dialing up my family so I could say, "I love you... over." :)
As a Veteran, I can't describe the pride that the military's embracement of social media gives me... knowing that the finest military in the world have chosen to open its doors to the very people they are defending. Bravo Zulu.