Social Media Security Lessons From the U.S. Army Tough tips for training employees on the do's and don'ts of posting about your company.

By Kim Lachance Shandrow

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Army Mil

The risks are too high for the U.S. Army not to take social media security seriously. To avoid classified information leaks and off-the-cuff comments that could jeopardize missions -- and even lives -- the Army created a 52-page handbook that details what is and isn't safe for soldiers and civilian personnel to post about online. The most recent version was published earlier this year.

Have you trained your employees on what they can and can't say about your business on their -- and your company's -- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media accounts? If not, you could be putting your business at risk for the spread of misinformation, leaked memos and competitive secrets and other potential public relations nightmares.

"It's easy to get complacent, especially within the context of casual online conversations," says Lt. Col. Vinston L. Porter, Jr., director of the Army's Online and Social Media Division. "It's ever more important to emphasize safe social media practices and to re-emphasize them often."

Here are three lessons from the Army that you can share with your employees when establishing social media safety and privacy guidelines for your small business:

1. Provide specific examples of what is and isn't okay to post about.
The Army provides soldiers with detailed examples of potentially dangerous social media posts and how they can be made safer and less revealing. For example, a post that reads "My Soldier is in XYZ at abc camp in abc city, Afghanistan," isn't safe, according to the Army's handbook. However, posting a more general version instead, such as, "My soldier is deployed to Afghanistan," is officially considered safer.

Similarly, you can make certain topics off limits for your employees over social media. These might include anything related to litigation, non-published financial data or unreleased product information.

Related: 4 Things You Need to be Doing on Social Media -- Now

2. Think about the competition before posting.

Soldiers in the Army are asked to stop and think of what might happen if a post -- whether a comment, geotag, photo or video -- ends up in the hands of the enemy. Could a careless post or GPS check-in compromise a mission, or their personal safety or the safety of their unit or family? If so, the choice is simple -- don't post it.

For employees, the question to ask before posting something is, "What could a competitor, an unhappy customer or a disgruntled former employee do with this information?" If your business manufactures consumer electronics or medical devices, for example, remind your staff often of the implications of releasing or discussing confidential product specs and images on their personal social media accounts and blogs.

3. Get serious about training social media personnel.
Soldiers who are in charge of public social media accounts that officially represent the Army are required to regularly undergo exhaustive Operations Security training courses.

Once you've designated an employee or contractor to maintain your company's social media accounts, thoroughly train him or her on your social media strategy as well as your social media conduct standards -- both for posting and commenting. This way, it's crystal clear what you expect when posting on your organization's behalf.

Related: 3 Essential Things to Teach Employees About Tech Security

Kim Lachance Shandrow

Former West Coast Editor

Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper,, and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here

Editor's Pick

Related Topics

Business Ideas

This Teacher Sells Digital Downloads for $10. Her Side Hustle Now Makes Six Figures a Month: 'It Seems Too Good to Be True, But It's Not.'

When one middle school teacher needed to make some extra income, she started a remote side hustle with no physical products and incredibly low overhead. Now she brings in six figures each month, and offers courses teaching others how to do the same.


'I Haven't Ticked All the Boxes Yet.' Hilary Duff Reveals Her Next Venture After More Than 2 Decades in the Spotlight — and the Surprisingly Relatable Key to Her Enduring Success

The actor talks entrepreneurship, secrets to success and her latest role as chief brand director for Below 60°, a product line of air fragrances.


Great Leaders Must Be Great Coaches — Here's How to Become One

To be a successful leader, you must become an expert in how to help others grow and develop. Here's a research-driven approach for entrepreneurial leaders to coach and effectively develop their teams.


How to Win Over the Room With Effective Persuasion Skills

The art of persuasion is not just about the notes, the data, and the pitch; it's about creating a connection that resonates with the audience. We explore how a blend of story, active listening, and genuine interaction can not only capture attention but also win hearts and minds, setting the stage for achieving success in any meeting.

Business News

An Ivy League University Is Teaching the Secret of Taylor Swift's Success

Several major universities have added courses dedicated to studying Swift's star power.


Google Is About to Delete Inactive Accounts. Here's How to Avoid A Massive Gmail Bounce Rate.

Google will start deleting inactive accounts soon. For businesses like yours, that means many Gmail contacts will probably bounce. Here's how you can avoid that – and keep your business emails landing in the inbox.