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

entrepreneur daily

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 Entrepreneur.com. 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, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com 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

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Related Topics

Science & Technology

The 'Mother of All Breaches' Just Happened — Here's the Security Implications for Businesses

If your business exists online, chances are some percent of your customers' data got leaked in what cybersecurity specialists boldly labeled as the "mother of all breaches" (MOAB).

Side Hustle

Getting Laid Off Allowed Him to Focus on His Sentimental Side Hustle. Now He's on Track to Earn Over $700,000 in 2024.

Alaa El Ghatit wasn't fulfilled at his day job. So he started LifeOnRecord to help people record memories and well wishes.

Business News

The Owner of a Popular Boston Restaurant Is Under Fire After Direct Messaging, Berating a Customer Who Disputed $250 Cancelation Fee

New York-based traveler Trevor Chauvin-DeCaro was set to dine at Table in Boston's North End last month.

Business News

Klarna Says Its AI Assistant Does the Work of 700 People. The Company Laid Off the Same Number of Employees 2 Years Ago.

The AI bot has taken on 75% of Klarna's customer service chats, or about 2.3 million conversations, within a month of launch.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.