The Canadian army's east coast branch has hired a civilian to tweet and Facebook for the troops.

Major Mark Gough is the media contact for Land Force Atlantic Area, but said he needed outside help for using social media.

"None of us are experts in social media. We all have our own Facebook pages, individually, personally. Some of us engage in Twitter, but none of us have used this in an organizational sense," he said.

'We are opening ourselves up to conversations that traditionally you might not want to engage in.' —Major Mark gough

He said it's not a tool for recruiting new members, but a way to better inform the public about what their army does every day.

The 7,000 personnel in the region include regular forces and reserve members in all four Atlantic provinces.

Gough said Land Force Western and Land Force Central, the other two branches, do not use civilians for social media, but he felt an outside perspective would help the army connect with civilians.

"We are opening ourselves up to conversations that traditionally, you might not want to engage in. But those conversations are happening whether you want them to or not," said Gough.

"By having our own social media sites, we can be part of that conversation."

Steep learning curve

Erin Berube of Simple Social Media will work from home and manage three social media sites:

  • @LFAA_Comd (Twitter)
  • 36 Canadian Brigade Group (Facebook)
  • Land Force Atlantic Area (Facebook)

She has no military background and said it has been a steep learning curve.

"From knowing the difference between a regular member and a reserve member, to how the army is structured, pretty much everything. All of the lingo, there's a lot of acronyms in the army, so I've had to learn that," she said.

Berube was surprised when the military chose her company to help create its social media face. She said it could be a great tool.

"It's a nice, casual channel for people to talk to the army, to ask questions. I think there's a lot of potential, and I think there's a lot of curiosity and interest in the army," she said.

The pilot project will run for eight months.