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The Virtual World is Flat- How social media is helping good ideas get heard

The Army is probably about as stratified and hierarchical an organization as you will find where everyone has a place in the system from Private to General. That system has existed for literally thousands of years but I believe the social media revolution is creating a virtual flattening like never seen before where anyone with a good idea and social networks can see those ideas float to the very top in the blink of a tweet.

This idea struck me as I had the unique privilege to attend the recent Sweets and Tweets event co-hosted by Debbie Weil (@debbieweil) and Neighborhood America (@NBHD_America) featuring Dr. Mark Drapeau (@cheeky_geeky) Tuesday evening in Georgetown’s Baked and Wired cafe. Mark’s discussion centered on what he likes to call the two dirtiest words in Government 2.0–social networking.

He has engaged in a withering intellectual discussion on the topic with the good natured Chris Dorobek (@cdorobek) of Federal News Radio for a while now with Chris being of the mind that we should change the terminology to “collaboration” tools as a better descriptor with less of a leisurely sound.

I have weighed in a little on both sides of that argument but to me the real issue doesn’t center on terminology but on the quiet growth of knowledge sharing and instant discussions that social media has allowed us in the military.

In every aspect of our business heated arguments and intellectual exchanges are occurring in numerous corners of the web. On the Small Wars Journal website (www.smallwarsjournal.com) the brainiacs are arguing over COIN strategy while on individual Facebook pages public affairs officers are robustly arguing over how best to address breaking news stories…as they occur.

In the Army there are a growing group of big thinking public affairs professionals finding their voices through social media tools and online outlets to cut through the chain-of-command and share tips and techniques across the globe.

For example, out in Korea a brigade PAO named MAJ Mike Nicholson has built a terrific blog and social media package called 46Alpha (www.46alpha.com and @46alpha) where he shares the best practices he has learned on social media with a huge number of like minded professionals.

Up at the Defense Information School a young Staff Sergeant named Joshua Salmons is leading the internet-based capabilities work and being featured in briefings, e-seminars and was published just last month in Federal Computer Week magazine discussing Facebook fan pages for military organizations.

Up in the Office of the Chief of Pubic Affairs, MG Kevin Bergner has created the Online and Social Media Division under the able leadership of LTC (P) Kevin Arata and his team of civilians and great contractors are dreaming up new ways to tell the Army story every day.

These voices from the field are finding a platform and conduit to their peers and outside agencies all because of this “virtual flattening” of the Army like never before.

A whole aspect of the idea of Government 2.0 is the ability to share knowledge across silos using these sophisticated new tools while also sharing needed information with the public. My advice for my peers is that if you plug into this world you can have a voice in the discussion too.

You don’t have to sit in the field anymore and say to your buddies “geez…if I could call somebody in DC I would tell them….”

Blog it–tweet it– share it now and you will be a better communicator and thinker.

P.S. I’ve been quiet on the blogging front this last two weeks as I retired from the Army and am now working at JANSON Communications as the Senior Director of Communications, Public Relations and Social Media. Which means I get to think about this stuff full time now. Which is really cool.

(This was originally posted on my personal blog http://armedandcurious.blogspot.com/2009/11/virtual-world-is-flat.html)

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Frederick P. Wellman

Mary thanks a lot! That is a very cool use of these tools to collaborate and brainstorm virtually. How are you spreading the word on the project and the availability of this site to those who would add to it?