According to JP 3-61, the U.S. military has an obligation to communicate with its members and the U.S. public, and it is in the national interest to communicate with the international public. The proactive release of accurate information to domestic and international audiences:
- puts joint operations in context,
- facilitates informed perceptions about military operations,
- undermines adversarial propaganda
- and helps achieve national, strategic and operational objectives.
It's a non-negotiable truth in public affairs—if the command has a social media account or intends to communicate with stakeholders online, there will need to be a social media manager. Management of command presences will undoubtedly take time. How much depends on the popularity of the content and the community size. There may be one person serving as the main point of contact and managing social media sites or a small team that collectively ensures there is no potential single point of failure for being able to manage information in a timely manner.
Social media managers, under the supervision of leadership, must have their service certificates and training in order to legally and officially operate on social media for the Department of Defense. It is up to the unit or organization to establish its unique communication strategy.
The social media manager’s role is to own the digital lines of effort and manage the accounts. Their diverse array of responsibilities are summarized in the following graphic.
What separates a social media manager from an entry-level content producer is the expectation of the qualitative and quantitative expertise necessary to interpret analytics and report on the organization's accounts in a way that is accurate, understandable and actionable.
Responsibilities & Daily Duties
According to JP 3-61, the social media manager should work within the command standard operating procedure (SOP) to:
- Develop and post content when needed
- Interact with those who engage the command within that social tool
- Respond to public inquiries when necessary
- Communicate periodically throughout the day
- Provide oversight and management for a team of content creators
- Ensure the health of social media accounts—communicate intent with team and superiors
- Report progress of events and campaigns
- Provide training and guidance for social media use
- Consistently seek ways to improve to meet communication objectives
Your day-to-day duties may include:
- Establish and maintain a social media strategy that is nested within the higher communication strategy and command narrative
- Know your team, train and use your people effectively
- Determine and track key performance indicators (KPI)
- Oversee and manage all social media content
- Understand all platforms and how they work (algorithms, content types, etc.)
- Report on analytics and progress to leadership
- Follow and stay up to date on all policy
- Engage in social media listening and monitoring—setting up alerts and daily check-ins
- Build rapport with leadership
- Command's Critical Information Requirements (CCRI)—critical requirements for when to tell the boss
- Manage issues before they becomes crises
- Understand strategic vision and intent and establish access to the decision-maker/leader
- Develop a decision matrix table so there is a plan in place for your social media strategy when a crisis occurs
- Follow Operational Security (OPSEC) protocols
- Identify personnel who are authorized to post content to social media sites
- Establish local procedures to ensure that all information posted on social media is approved by the proper release authority
- Ensure all information posted is done so in accordance with public affairs guidance (PAG)
- Monitor social media presences for posts that violate OPSEC and remove as necessary
- Conduct periodic training with personnel and families on what kind of content is not appropriate for posting online—and not just to the command’s social media presences
- Inform and periodically remind service members and families about maintaining security and privacy settings on personal social media sites
Skills for Social Media Managers
Be Creative! Look for opportunities to expand your reach and introduce engaging content. One creator can create multiple pieces of content across multiple platforms with multiple off-ramps to help take the stakeholder on a journey across your various platforms. One captured video can generate long and short-form video cuts and photos that can become media products for current and later use.
Be Good with People! You will be responsible for interacting with your content team and leadership on a daily basis. You will also need to develop authentic and active audience relationships.
Demonstrate Authenticity! Engaging with individuals often through posts and replies demonstrates legitimacy and authenticity. You are showing your audience that you care about the information you deliver and the feedback you receive. Each time you reply to a message, post a status update or upload a video, you’re pushing your brand voice. It's important to stay consistent.
Be a Good Partner! Learn to leverage relationships with the command, the community, the media, partners and stakeholders to accomplish a mission.
Be a Good (Social) Listener! Social listening is more than watching @mentions and comments (social monitoring). You will need to learn how global sentiment impacts your message, what types of language people associate with your organization and why perception shifts happen. Social listening is the perfect tool for identifying trends and information about your audience. By using it—and experimenting with different topics, headlines and content formats—you can make sure you’re creating content specifically for your target audience.