Along with the general public, many organizations like the U.S. Army and its installations use social networking platforms to distribute information and engage with audiences. However, federal government personnel are limited by policies and guidelines when engaging on social media.

While Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are among the most commonly used social media platforms, Facebook takes the lead in popularity with more than 1 billion active users worldwide and approximately 68 percent of U.S. adults use it, according to Facebook Newsroom and Pew Research Center.

“The Army acknowledges the importance of social media and encourages our commands, Soldiers, Families and Army civilians to safely and accurately use social media to share their experiences and provide information,” states the U.S. Army website.

Along with the general public, many organizations like the U.S. Army and its installations use social networking platforms to distribute information and engage with audiences. However, federal government personnel are limited by policies and guidelines when engaging on social media.

In recent weeks, a U.S. Army installation shared a political post on both Facebook and Twitter. The post went viral and caught the attention of local news.

According to the Hatch Act Frequently Asked Questions on the Office of Special Council web page, federal employees may not use a Facebook or Twitter account in his/her official capacity to engage in political activity. Any social media account created in a federal employee’s official capacity should be limited to official business matters and remain politically neutral.

When using a social media platform, Soldiers and federal personnel still represent the U.S. Army, even outside of their duty hours. Soldiers using social media must abide by the Uniform Code of Military Justice at all times.

What may happen if a Soldier’s online misconduct is reported? Army Regulation 600-20 states that “commanders and leaders in the Army, whether on or off duty or in a leave status, will take action consistent with Army regulations in any case where a Soldier’s conduct violates good order and military discipline.”

“Many service members do not realize that they can be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for what they say, post and how they act on their personal social media accounts,” said Adam Luther, Fort Bragg Social Media manager. “In today’s hyper-connected world, social media users must be aware of the consequences that come along with it.”

Strategies to help secure an organization’s social media accounts include tightening settings and limiting the number of people who have access to the accounts. Be sure those who have access are properly trained and current with Army social media guidance and standards.

“Maintaining a clear and distinct separation of personal views and the role of a social media administrator is vital for operating a successful social media program,” Luther said.

Social media is an engaging tool to captivate one’s audience and distribute information to the public. When used correctly, social media platforms may be a powerful instrument for digital communication. By keeping in mind the Army’s values and guidance when operating one’s organizational platforms, it can aid in a successful social media program.

Official guidance detailing online conduct for federal personnel include Army Regulation 360-1, AR 600-20, the Hatch Act, and ALARACT 075/2017.

For more information about social media in the U.S. Army, visit https://www.army.mil/socialmedia.