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Harnessing Social Media for Military Power


In 2008, Scott Beale wanted to attend the Google party at South by Southwest Interactive (a 5-day conference featuring presentations and panels from rising stars and big names in the technology and entertainment fields); however, the line was way too long for his taste. Instead of wasting the night away standing outside, Scott and his group decided to throw their own party. The friends took to Twitter announcing they were hosting an “Alta Vista” party at a nearby bar. Within minutes, a crowd started gathering, and soon Scott and his buddies had their own line forming out the door. As Seth Godin points out in his book, Tribes: What You Need to Lead Us,

Twitter merely enabled the event; it didn’t cause it to occur. Unless Scott had earned the respect and permission of the tribe that follows him, he would have been all alone at the bar. The party didn’t take four minutes to organize; it took four years.

Scott’s party isn’t some social media anomaly; it’s one of the realities of being active on mediums such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Reddit, and LinkedIn.

Social media enables individuals to connect into networks of people who can be mobilized for learning, parties, projects, movements, fundraising, or even just to raise awareness. Because of the power that can be harnessed from these mediums, military professionals should take the time to learn them, be active on social media sites, and find innovative ways to use them within their organizations. These platforms present an opportunity for military professionals to extend their span of influence beyond the chain of command, cut through multiple layers of bureaucracy, and potentially develop a personal form of “soft power.”

Read the rest of this post over at War on the Rocks where it first appeared on August 20, 2015

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7 thoughts on “Harnessing Social Media for Military Power”

  1. Joe,

    Just wanted to commend you on your blog posting(s); your thinking is forward of most, entertaining, and well written.

    Here are a couple doctrinal references to support your last transmission, “Harnessing Social Media for Military Power”.

    Mission Command- ADP 6-0: Social and technical networks enable commanders to communicate information and control forces, leading to successful operations. Generally, a network is a grouping of people or things interconnected for a purpose. Commanders develop and leverage various social networks-individuals and organizations interconnected by a common interest-to exchange information and ideas, build teams, and promote unity of effort. ADP 6-0 http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/dr_a/pdf/adp6_0.pdf , Paragraph 47. Page 11

    On the OER/NCOER, in the section “Leads” it says: “Extends Influence beyond chain of command” The social network is a doctrinal means (above) to an expansion of influence.

    Going further: “Excels”, defined in the Army:

    Results far surpass expectations. The officer readily(fluently/naturally/effortlessly) demonstrates a high level of the all attributes and competencies. Recognizes and exploits new resources; creates opportunities. Demonstrates initiative and adaptability even in highly unusual or difficult situations. Emulated; sought after as expert with influence beyond unit. Actions have significant, enduring, and positive impact on mission, the unit and beyond. Innovative approaches to problems produce significant gains in quality and efficiency. Reference: AR 623-3 http://www.apd.army.mil/pdffiles/r623_3.pdf Dated 31 March 2014, Section II Terms Page 117

    In this 71 word definition of “Excels” it states two times to reach outside the unit. This social requirement is not in the “Proficient” or “Capable”

    The problem is measurement of this social contact beyond the chain of command. We use a couple analysis tool for metrics (NodeXL) being one that helps us with input on Signaleers’ Evaluations.

    I actually have an entire facilitation/brief we provide the at the Cyber Center to Signal Officers and NCOs, if you are interested?

    Thanks again for reaching beyond your chain of command,


  2. Joe,
    I enjoy reading your articles. As an Intelligence professional, I feel compelled to remind the readers to practice good OPSEC when posting to social media accounts. =)
    – T. Wilson


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