The Air Force has released its Social Media handbook and video on how the Air Force is encouraging its members to use Social Media. The handbook made its debut at the 2009 AF Public Affairs Leadership Development Seminar in Herndon, VA. It was quite the hit, and the handbook has started to make its way around other government agencies and large companies as they search for a way to jump start their SM ventures. Clearly the AF is ahead of most on the use of Social Media. Thanks largely in part to Maj Gen Darren McDew who had the vision to see the benefits Social Media brought to the Air Force. He embraced the changes Social Media could enable and encouraged the AF Public Affairs community to get online while he served as director of Air Force public affairs. Recent posts on Twitter highlight just how far ahead the AF is on its Social Media front with many people giving @AFPAA kudos. However, there are still several obstacles to overcome in the Air Force’s quest for integrating Social Media tools into its communication arsenal. A recent blog post pointed out the irony:
“A round of applause for the U.S. Air Force, please. They have provided the most deliciously ironic story we’ve reported in a long time. In the very same week that sources reported that Air Force servers were blocking virtually all popular social media sites, including the military’s own YouTube alternative site, “TroopTube,” the Air Force also held an annual conference focusing on… you guessed it, “new media tactics.” From: OhMyGov.com.
In fact, the Secretary of the Air Force believed in the power of having every Air Fore member communicate directly with the public — sending out a policy letter on the subject. The power of every Airman as a communicator can only be realized through the use of Social Networking sites, not by blocking access to them. There has to be a balance between security and access, with risk accepted to enable what is clearly becoming a powerful tool in citizen engagement and transparency in government: Social Media.
One thing is for sure, blocking access to social media sites only prevents the Air Force from having it’s voice in the digital world. It does not prevent its adversaries from sharing their point of view with the world. I have to agree with OhMyGov.com, the irony of the Air Force blocking its own social media efforts is quite the conundrum. However, it is a welcome sign in the way ahead. I firmly believe access will prevail, it has to. Not because I think it needs to, but because the American taxpayer demands transparency in government. The security risks will be mitigated and the risk will be accepted so that every Airman can in fact become a communicator. It is inevitable.
Related Stories (from OhMyGov.com):
- U.S. Air Force takes Chinese government approach to Internet access
- Air Force getting serious about cyber warfare