How the military use social media

How do you keep your employees safe online? Over the past few weeks I’ve been writing about social media policies and guidance and highlighting how organisations equip their workforce through policies and advice, including collating a list of 300 policies.

What about matters of national security?
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has a comprehensive communications campaign Think Before You Share to encourage people serving in the armed forces to consider their actions online.

Its focus is along the lines of ‘it may not just be your friends and family who see what you write’ and ‘consider the sort of YouTube hit you want to be.’

The MoD itself has a blog, YouTube channel, Flickr account, Tweets @defenceHQ and a Facebook page. It also has an online engagement guide.

I’m going to highlight some of the tools and resources as I think this approach has some great ideas that other internal communication professionals can learn from and perhaps be inspired by. It hopefully goes without saying that these are all in the public domain already.secs

I’ve learnt a whole world of acronyms today! SEC = security. OPSEC = Operational Security, COMSEC = Communications Security, INFOSEC = Information Security and PERSEC = Personal security.

Information that shouldn’t be shared includes things like a soldier’s exact location overseas, info on troop movements, weapons systems etc.

Things which may seem innocuous e.g. a ‘deployment ticker’ for families to countdown/count up dates and times are also not a good idea!

I spotted the Twitter account @SoldierUK today. It appears to keep a watchful eye on content that is being communicated and reminds armed forces personnel of their duty and responsibilities. It’s not clear who operates it and whether it is a credible source, however it does appear to be.

Its profile says: “Keeping you informed on UK military matters and promoting social media best practice. Think before you tweet – OPSEC, INFOSEC, COMSEC & PERSEC.”

After reading through some of the tweets, I was struck by a red, amber and green system it cites, here’s the red overview as an example:


  • Do not breach OPSEC or PERSEC by giving away sensitive information obtained through work, such as troop movements, capabilities or shortfalls, exercises etc
  • Do not embarrass or bring your Service or Defence into disrepute. This includes sharing any offensive or sensitive materials.
  • Do not share any official Defence information that you are not authorised to share
  • Do not complain about Defence policy or make political statement in any public forum if it looks like you are speaking offocially. Raise problems through your chain of command
  • Do not reveal your exact location on operations. Ensure location services and geotagging features are off
  • Do not write anything out of anger, spite, overreacting or when drunk.
  • Do not be a bully, discriminate against of make personal attacks in social media forums.
  • Do not steal someone else’s content and post as your own, especially copyright material.
  • Failure to follow these guideline may result in displcimary or adminittative action.

@SoldierUK has also Tweeted information for employees to share with their families, particularly children, on how to stay safe online.

posters_WWIIISeparately, a Tweet by the account to a ‘loose tweets sink fleets’ picture led me to discover  a series of images called ‘WWIII propaganda posters’ on Flickr.

They have been created by Brian Lane Winfield Moore @lanewinfield based on WWII posters.

You can see that image on this page alongside some other ones that Brian has created.

Brian’s website reveals they were “inspired by the 2009 Iran election protest and activism and censorship therein… Based on World War II propaganda posters, the posters have been rethought in contemporary context remixed for today’s Internet culture.”

What do you think of them? I think they are striking. I often describe Twitter like a set of Russian dolls – leading you from one person or topic to another, revealing more layers, people and information as you go. Today has certainly been one of those examples!

The Twitter avatar of @SoldierUK features the ‘Practice safe SECs’ image which is the top picture in this article with the acronyms.

What advice does the MoD offer on using social media?
The MoD website contains advice for the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force. It also has downloadable advice for employees including:

MOD social media

Mod social media

The information states: “Defence is changing and in the midst of that transformation, we are asking all our service and civilian personnel to adapt quickly and professionally. Some of that change is driven by social media.

Use of social media is ubiquitous within the military and, more widely, in Defence. It is used to achieve a variety of business and communications effects. The challenge for us is therefore not why or how, but how well we use social media.

At the forefront is the need to communicate with friends, family and the general public. It is used to reassure the public, our stakeholders, international partners, friends, families and colleagues that we continue to deliver our core business of defending the nation and its interests. It allows us to connect with the public and bridge the gap with those who know little about the military.

People have an interest in what we do, and social media provides a platform on which information is shared by sailors, soldiers and airmen all the way through to the most senior ranks of our Services.

As social media is all about connections in real time, the speed and dynamic method of distribution means that all members of the Armed Forces must be aware of possibilities and risks associated with social media.

Video campaign
The MoD has released a poignant set of videos via its YouTube channel as part of the Think Before You Share campaign and you can see them all below.

They showcase the various ways people can share information and the potential implications.


This is a compilation of all four videos:

Want to know more?
You can see more guidance from the MoD via its website.

There are also (unofficial) OPSEC boards on Pinterest such as this one.

I’ve been fascinated today by the information that’s around and reading how the MoD is offering advice and guidance on social media.

What do you think about what you’ve read? You’re welcome to Tweet me @allthingsIC or comment below.

Post author: Rachel Miller

Further reading: Article by Dan Slee

First published on the All Things IC blog 2 June 2013.

Last updated: August 2016.

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