Social Media Challenges and the Defense Industry

Posted by John H. Heinrichs

Dec 20

Privacy and the Role of Human Resources

A 2012 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey reported that 55 percent of organizations planned to increase their social media use within a year.  LockThis comes as no surprise when considering studies, such as the one performed by Towers Watson in 2010, suggest that companies with the most effective communication strategies – which almost always include the use of social media tools – post higher returns for shareholders when compared to companies with less effective strategies.  What does this all mean in regards to today’s organizational strategy development?  It suggests that as we move forward into the future, companies must develop a solid social media presence if they hope to remain competitive in the ever changing global market place. 

Companies must develop a solid social media presence if they hope to remain competitive!

The link between social media and organizational success grows stronger and stronger as the use of social media becomes more prevalent in today’s society.  As companies expand their use of social media tools moving forward in order to gain a competitive advantage, they must strive to be cognizant of the dangers associated with a strong social media presence as the social media environment continues to change.  Companies in the defense industry, such as General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), must be even more aware of the future challenges a strong social media presence brings, because this industry is centered on the use of sensitive information, reputation for success, and strict ethical business practices.  (Image File: Social Network Security.png  Photo by Chris2d, available under a Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Challenges with the Use of Social Media

When considering GDLS, or any defense industry organization for that matter, the largest challenge associated with the use of social media and what future changes will bring is how to ensure an organization’s privacy and confidentiality policies are maintained.  GDLS has a strict policy in regards to privacy and information sharing, and for good reason as most of the company’s business dealings are primarily associated with classified information.  Even the information associated with day-to-day business at GDLS which is deemed unclassified is still considered “sensitive”, and it is against company policy to share that information openly outside the company.  The danger associated with the increased use of social media and privacy is that while the intent is to be personal and provocative in order to attract followers and gain public recognition, employers who allow employees to post on the company account may also leave themselves open to problems such as potential disclosure of confidential organizational information, violation of employment rules or policies, or simply public relations issues.  Employees must be aware of how their actions online could compromise the organization’s security if an organization hopes to protect its privacy and confidentiality policies.  Even the most cautious and well-meaning people can give away information they should not, and this certainly applies to what is posted on a company-approved social networking platform.  As a defense industry company such as GDLS expands its use of social media tools, it is important to have a well developed strategy that allows for the company’s privacy policies to be maintained if they hope to both maximize the return on investment associated with the use of social media and continue to support the privacy policies that are expected of them by their customers. 

Social Media Strategies

The next question becomes, where does a defense industry company, such as GDLS, start with developing its future social media strategy in order to be successful in maintaining the security of its privacy and confidentiality policies?  The answer, which may seem incongruous at first glance, is Human Resources (HR).  HR may be tempted to leave all social media matters to the organization’s Information Technology management team, but experts warn that issues involved with the use of social media, such as privacy, appropriate communication styles, confidentiality, and productivity and time management fall squarely on the shoulders of the HR department.  Developing the policies on what the appropriate use of these evolving social media tools are is a responsibility that an organization’s HR department must undertake.  Working in conjunction with the company’s risk management specialists, marketing personnel, and information technology management professionals, the HR department needs to develop the structure for policies that will minimize the risk to the employer’s security and reputation. 

Human Resource departments mus develop policies on privacy and security!

HR must also help the employer to leverage the use of social media for the organization’s benefit, and this is done in part by being responsible for enforcing the social media policies put forth.  Once these policies have been developed, HR should take the primary responsibility for developing and promoting the guidelines and training associated with the use of the company’s social media tools, such that employees understand the expectations about their use of social media, both at work and at home.  HR must also take the lead on the development of internal privacy policy documents which communicate the requirements, changes, and clarifications to the company’s employees. If an organization hopes to be successful at maintaining its privacy and confidentiality, the organization’s HR department must be at the heart of the social media strategy and policy generation.


Companies around the world are increasing their exposure by becoming more active in social media, and companies within the defense industry are no different.  As social media tools continue to grow and change, it’s important for defense industry organizations to understand how those changes impact their business, what challenges they face, and how to adapt to stay competitive. While privacy and confidentiality may be at the forefront of interest for defense industry organizations when considering a social media development strategy, it certainly is not the only concern.  A constant assessment of changes in tools and exposure of social media from the organization’s perspective should be occurring to ensure the company is adapting properly and securing their interests.  


  1. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Kanuary 2012, SHRM Survey: More than Half of Employers Will Increase Social Media Outreach in 2012
  2. Towers Watson, July 2012, 2012 Global Workforce Study - Engagement at Risk: Driving Strong Performance in a Volatile Global Environment,

(All accolades and credit for this tremendous blog post are for Daniel Coumans who is the author and content creator.)

Subscribe to the BizBlog!

Topics: Privacy

Subscribe to our Blog!


See All Authors

Interested In Being A Blog Contributor?

If you are interested in being a contributor to the BizBlog, please fill out the form and I will get back to you real soon!!