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Marines Release Social Media Handbook

Two years after the military arm banned the use of Facebook, Twitter and the like, it's now embracing social media to promote communications.

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A little more than two years after the Marines banned their personnel from using social media, the military arm has released a handbook detailing how it should be used to bolster how U.S. Marines communicate on the Web.

"The Social Corps," the handbook for how Marines should use social media, is aimed at advising personnel how they can use social media to "engage in greater discussion as even better communicators and improved representatives of our Corps," according to the handbook, which has been posted online.

The handbook establishes core guiding principles for various behaviors and scenarios in which Marines will use social media sites, such as personal behavior, professional behavior, setting up ground rules for fans so they can also behave accordingly, using social media for crisis communication and others.

For instance, in terms of their basic communications, the handbook advises Marines to see what they say on the Web through the same lens as their formal communication with fellow Marines, and think before they post anything.

"With social communication, you essentially provide a permanent record of what you say--if you wouldn't say it in front of a formation, don't say it online," the handbook advises.

How to leverage social media in a crisis--an area that the feds increasingly are exploring--also is outlined in the guidelines, which calls social media channels "excellent" ways to "distribute relevant command information to key audiences and the media while also providing a means for dialogue among the affected and interested parties."

The handbook advises Marines to have a course of action ahead of time before a crisis occurs so they can facilitate the dissemination of "most current, official Marine Corps updates to key audiences before a crisis hits so people know where to find you online, and trust the information they receive."

Fueled by worries of security, privacy, and misrepresentation of their missions, a host of federal agencies have released similar policies and guidelines to mandate behaviors for their personnel's social media use. But the move is especially an interesting one for the Marines because it's a complete reversal for a policy instituted two years ago.

In August 2009, the military arm prohibited its personnel from using any social media sites. However, in February 2010 the Department of Defense authorized unclassified military computers to use social media, lifting the Marines' own ban on its use.

Now the Marines are active users of social media, with dedicated Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Flicker pages, as well as a Marine Corps blog on which the military arm shares both personal and professional stories and news.

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