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Slice of life – social media and the Air Force

May 10, 2010

I recently stumbled upon an interesting post about the Air Force’s new social media policy on The post itself is really just a press release announcing the Air Force’s decision to open up access to social media sites from within the firewalls on bases across the globe–interesting enough if you’re fascinated by the rapidly expanding footprint of social media at organizations these days. But what really caught my attention was the couple of hundred comments people submitted in the week following the post.

Scrolling through these, it became clear that this thread captured in microcosm the debates I’ve been hearing at my clients as they weigh the pros and cons of adopting social media for the enterprise.

Below are some excerpts I pulled out of the thread. I think they’re good examples of the different points of view folks have about social media for the enterprise:

I personally feel this is the end of productivity. I can already see I will have to hound my troops to get off Facebook and do work. My real question are they going to block apps? If they don’t I will have to add telling them to get off Farmville.

I really don’t see how having access to Twitter will allow me to get my job done any quicker. Communicator I can see….but Facebook? Now absolutely no work will get done.

Does anyone else see the irony in posting to an open forum on about how social networking is going to be the downfall of productivity?

There are plenty of civilian corporations that have open internet access and plenty of work gets done. A report about Enterprise adoption of Web 2.0 technologies by Awareness Inc. showed – Employers are finding the benefits of using social media 63 percent are using social media to build and promote their brand, 61 percent are using it to improve communication and collaboration and 58 percent are using it to increase consumer engagement. – 75 percent of employees are already using social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn for business purposes up 15 percent from 2007 – Use of internal-facing communities is on the rise with 6 percent of organizations already reporting they deployed internal-facing communities while 33 percent indicate their organization plans to implement internal-facing social media initiatives.

I don’t see why these sites are necessary at work. We’re at work to do work. We’ve been doing fine this long without having access to these sites. What’s the advantage gained now?

It all comes down to policing the work place. Hell most of the guys in my shop could get to Facebook on their cell phones all ready. All I have to do is make sure they don’t abuse it… any more than they already abused the internet access they have.

Wow, I can only imagine what you nay-sayers would’ve been like when the Army Air Corps was looking to purchase the first airplane. What? No more horses? No more marching? This military is getting lazy. Part of being a leader is guiding Airmen to do the right thing. There is nothing wrong with a young Airman getting online from you name the base and saying just recovered my first aircraft as a crew chief. That’s what most senior leaders want Airmen to do. How else will the American public find out what the Air Force is really all about? Do you trust traditional media, i.e. television, radio, and newspapers, to give a more accurate story than our Airmen? Really.

You need to think outside the box. For instance, we had recent massive flooding that made getting to the base particularly the main gate impossible. Had the Command Post been allowed a Twitter account and had the base population subscribed they could have sent a tweet indicating only emergency essential members report and even then they should use the alternate gate.

I can’t see any benefit. What happened to e-mail and phone calls for staying in touch?

The military was doing fine before the cavalry, fine before automatic weapons, fine before tanks aircraft and satellites. We were doing fine before email. Now we’re doing fine before social media. The military used to be early adopters of new technology, now we’re hiding behind year 2004. I bet in 10 years you won’t remember what it was like NOT to have social media tools at your work site.

As a supervisor I see this as a great opportunity to help our Airman in a way that we could not have before. It’s a fact that I have already used Facebook at home to diagnose and prevent issues that some of my airman were having but were not willing to come to any of the NCOs for assistance.

I have all my guys as ‘friends’ on FB and I can monitor a lot of what they do from my account. In addition I have a member over in the Desert and I have already been able to do a lot through FB to help him things that would have been more difficult to do other ways…I seem to remember way back in the day they used to yell and scream about how you weren’t supposed to use the telephone for anything but official Business… Then it was Don’t use the Internet for anything but official Business… This is just the next thing to come along.

Many of the core use cases for the corporate adoption of social media are buried in this thread, from marketing and branding to collaboration and knowledge sharing, even emergency response and other mission critical operational communications. And as many commenters on point out, it’s amusing that folks are passionately debating the merits of the Air Force’s new social media policy using social media–but it’s also telling, and illustrates just how obsolete the objections posted there already are.

Would love to get a passionate debate of our own started right here, so post up if you have thoughts to share about this–conversation is always welcome!

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