Midwest States' Use of Social Media in Emergency Management


Published on

This report is a compilation of research conducted by Laurie Boettcher. Outside being a social media professional, speaker, and trainer, I am a graduate student at Northwestern University’s School of Communication. In pursuit of a Master of Communication, this has been an opportunity to research an area I am passionate about. The study was done under the tutelage of Dr. James Ettema, professor of Contemporary Media in Government, Business, and Society.
I became interested in the topic of social media in crisis communication while I was the Communication Manager for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Division of Transportation Structure Development’s Northwest Region. On August 7, 2007, the I-35W Bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Being in such close proximity and governing St. Croix County, which borders Minnesota, my office fielded media calls concerning bridge integrity, safety, inspection schedules, and more. As a communications professional, I could not help but notice that within minutes of the collapse, cell phone towers were jammed. People were unable to get word to their families and friends of their safety or otherwise. Instead, they were turning to social media – MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter was the new kid on the block. It was the first time I experienced people using social media tools for anything other than social. It was the first time I saw the potential power of social media for my profession. This fascinated me.
The research and this concluding report examine how the Emergency Management Agencies (EMA) of the Midwest states are using social media tools in their crisis communications.

1 Like
No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Midwest States' Use of Social Media in Emergency Management

  1. 1.            Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools In Crisis Communication  By Laurie Boettcher www.lbspeaksonline.comMarch 2012Northwestern University School of CommunicationMaster of Science in CommunicationContemporary Media in Government, Business, and SocietyDr. James Ettema
  2. 2. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationTABLE OF CONTENTS  Overview .......................................................................................................................... 3 Participation ..................................................................................................................... 4 Crisis Communications .................................................................................................. 6 Social Media Integration................................................................................................. 8 Facebook.................................................................................................................. 10 Twitter ...................................................................................................................... 16 Other Social Networks .......................................................................................... 22 Training and Maintenance............................................................................................ 24 Conclusion...................................................................................................................... 26 Sources ............................................................................................................................ 28          Page 2 of 30
  3. 3. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationOVERVIEW This report is a compilation of research conducted by Laurie Boettcher. Outside being a social mediaprofessional, speaker, and trainer, I am a graduate student at Northwestern University’s School ofCommunication. In pursuit of a Master of Communication, this has been an opportunity to research an areaI am passionate about. The study was done under the tutelage of Dr. James Ettema, professor ofContemporary Media in Government, Business, and Society.I became interested in the topic of social media in crisis communication while I was the CommunicationManager for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Division of Transportation StructureDevelopment’s Northwest Region. On August 7, 2007, the I-35W Bridge collapsed in Minneapolis,Minnesota. Being in such close proximity and governing St. Croix County, which borders Minnesota, myoffice fielded media calls concerning bridge integrity, safety, inspection schedules, and more. As acommunications professional, I could not help but notice that within minutes of the collapse, cell phonetowers were jammed. People were unable to get word to their families and friends of their safety orotherwise. Instead, they were turning to social media – MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter was the new kid onthe block. It was the first time I experienced people using social media tools for anything other than social.It was the first time I saw the potential power of social media for my profession. This fascinated me.The research and this concluding report examine how the Emergency Management Agencies (EMA) of theMidwest states are using social media tools in their crisis communications. Page 3 of 30
  4. 4. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationPARTICIPATION This research report is a reflection of interviewswith Midwest states, the information and insightthey provided, as well as secondary sources.Thirteen of the 14 Midwest states are included inthe research: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas,Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri,Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, andWisconsin. Mississippi was not included simplybecause its southern location was outside the demographic I chose to research.Of the 13 states contacted, representatives from eight states participated in telephone interviews to discusstheir social media use, what tools they are using, how they are using them, benefits, pitfalls, futureanticipations, and, specifically, use surrounding crisis. Interviews and research were completed during theperiod of January, February, and March 2012.I would like to thank personally the following individuals for their participation and invaluable insight:Jonathon Monken Doug NevilleDirector Director of CommunicationsIllinois Emergency Management Agency Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management DivisionSharon WatsonPublic Affairs Director Cecily FongKansas Division of Emergency Management Public Information Officer North Dakota Department of EmergencyBuddy Rogers ServicesPublic Information OfficerKentucky Emergency Management Agency Tamara McBride Public Information OfficerNicole Lisabeth Ohio Emergency Management AgencyPublic Information OfficerMichigan State Police, Emergency Management, Tod Pritchardand Homeland Security Division Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Wisconsin Emergency Management Page 4 of 30
  5. 5. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationIndiana agreed to participate, but was immersed in hosting the Superbowl, followed by a rash of weather-related disasters that diverted its attention. Iowa and Nebraska also agreed, but schedules did not align forinterviews. Representatives from Missouri and South Dakota respectfully declined, citing they are justbeginning their social media efforts and did not feel they would add value to the study. Although telephoneinterviews were not conducted with these five states, online information was gathered and is included.Secondary sources from journal articles, periodicals, web sites, blogs, and other are also included and citedafter the conclusion of this report. Page 5 of 30
  6. 6. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationCRISIS COMMUNICATIONS Summarized from the Missouri Department of Public Safety State Emergency Management Agency website, “The State Emergency Management Agency’s (SEMA) mission is to protect the lives and property of allstate residents when major disasters threaten public safety in any city, county, or region of the state. SEMAresponds to two types of disasters - natural and those caused by man. Natural disasters are major snowand/or ice storms, floods, tornadoes and/or severe weather, as well as a potential major earthquake. Man-made disasters, also known as technological emergencies, may include hazardous material incidents, nuclearpower plant accidents and other radiological hazards. SEMA is also responsible for developing a StateEmergency Operations Plan, which coordinates the actions of state government departments and agenciesin the event of any emergency requiring the use of state resources and personnel. SEMA also serves as thestatewide coordinator for activities associated with the National Flood Insurance Program (MissouriDepartment of Public Safety State Emergency Management Agency ).”Missouri’s mission statement is a precise reflection of the overall directive of EMAs. With these crises(before, during, and after) comes an intense need for strong communication within the agencies, as well aswith media and publics. The Institute for Public Relations cites, “A crisis can create three related threats: 1)public safety, 2) financial loss, and 3) reputation loss (Coombs, 2007).”Government agencies have a higher responsibility than private agencies when it comes to crisiscommunication. Every move of the agency is under strict scrutiny of the media and its publics. This is thetime for a state to show its capacity of decision and execution, and its power to overcome difficulties andsolve problems. A significant part of communication is finding the right tools to reach various publics anddemographics.A 2011 study by Magid Generational Strategies breaks down who is using what media at what time of day(Carmichael, 2011). The aspect I would like to focus on is not what time of day media is being accessed, butthe actual media used by different generations. The study reveals:  Baby Boomers (age 47 to 65) consume news media primarily through radio, television, and newspapers. Internet usage focuses on entertainment and Facebook.  Generation X (age 30 to 46) consumes news media primarily through radio, television, and Facebook. Internet usage focuses on news and information, Facebook, and entertainment. Page 6 of 30
  7. 7. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis Communication  Adult Millennials (age 18 to 29) consume news media primarily through radio and Facebook. Internet usage focuses on Facebook, news and information, and music.  Teen Millennials (age 13 to 17) consume news media primarily through radio and television. Internet usage focuses on music, entertainment, and Facebook.  iGen (age 12 and under) consume news media primarily through radio and television. Internet usage focuses on music.An important note is that the rate of news media consumption decreases significantly with each descendinggeneration. Thus it is even more crucial to reach each generation through the medium they are mostcomfortable. This leads us to social media integration. Page 7 of 30
  8. 8. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationSOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATION According to a report from Social Media Optimisation Servicesfrom 2010, the United States ranks second to only Canada fortime spent online. In 2010, Americans spent an average of 35.9hours per month online (Social Media Optimisation, 2011).What are we doing online? December 21, 2011, ComScorereleased its report ‘It’s a Social World.’ The report illustratessocial networking has become the world’s most popular onlineactivity (Clayton, 2011). “Social networking sites now reach 82percent of the world’s online population, representing 1.2billion users around the world (comScore, 2011).”A 2011 Pew Research Center report revealed two-thirds of adultAmerican internet users (65 percent) now say they use a social networking site. This was up from 61 percentin 2010 and 29 percent in 2008. For the first time in Pew Internet surveys, it meant half of all adults (50percent) use social networking sites (Madden& Zickuhr, 2011).Patrice Cloutier, Team Lead, StrategicCommunications, Ministry of CommunitySafety and Correctional Services in Ontario,Canada, states, “We’re in a brand new era interms of crisis communications. The needfor speed, rapid positioning, and responsehas changed the ‘game’ forever. Socialnetworks are the driving force behind thisreality (Cloutier, 2012).”Considering the rapid adoption and usage of social media as an information and newsgathering source,EMAs are flocking to social media tools to communicate with their publics. As Chief of Public Affairs atOhio Emergency Management, Tamara McBride, stated, “The world of social media dictates that if wedon’t join, we’ll get left behind (McBride, 2012).” Buddy Rogers, Public Information Office at Kentucky Page 8 of 30
  9. 9. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationEmergency Management Agency echoed this, stating, “Its speed and widespread coverage are incomparable(Rogers, 2012).” The Federal Emergency Management Agency cements the importance, noting, “Eventsworldwide have demonstrated how quickly social media can connect people and allow them to shareinformation and help one another,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Don Keldsen (Federal EmergencyManagement Agency, 2012).With roughly 1,400 social networks in existence and more emerging every day, the critical aspect for EMAsin terms of time and resources is creating presences on the social networks where their communities exist.Statistics portal Statista pulled data from comScore, Compete, and Google Ad Planner on social networkusage in the United States (Van Grove,2012). The graph at the right reveals thefindings. The most active social networksinclude Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,MySpace, Google+, tumblr, and the rapidlygrowing newcomer, Pinterest. It is curiousthat YouTube is not mentioned nor cited.Considering this is where communities areconcentrated, it is no surprise EMAs’ socialmedia efforts are focused on the top two –Facebook and Twitter. Page 9 of 30
  10. 10. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationFACEBOOK “Engaging with and using emerging social media maywell place the emergency-management community,including medical and public health professionals, in abetter position to respond to disasters (Merchant,Elmer, & Lurie, 2011).”Leading this charge is Facebook.Facebook reported 850 million users in March 2012.Its users each spent an average of 405 minutes permonth on the social network in January 2012 alone(Clayton, 2011).Quantcast demographics for Facebook (November2011) below shows the demographic is predominantlyfemale, which contrasts to the average news mediaconsumer. We see that ages 18 to 34 are the main demographic. This is positive since it is not the audiencewho generally consumes news on traditional media like television and radio, proving it is a good tool toreach them. This information is key to understanding how to tailor information that meets the needs of thispopulation. Page 10 of 30
  11. 11. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationOf the 13 states, ten EMAs are currently using Facebook in their Followers communications. The majority post messages according to a as of  Facebook  March 1, schedule as well as spontaneously during crises and other events. State  Presence  2012 Interviewees cited using Facebook for: 1. Illinois  Yes  3,432  2. Indiana  Yes  4,905   Awareness – All ten states are bringing about awareness to 3. Iowa  Yes  1,486  4. Kansas  Yes  1,252  their organizations and the benefits of social media 5. Kentucky  Yes  1,114  communication, simply by being present. 6. Michigan  No  ‐  7. Minnesota  Yes  1,692   Cross-promotion of other government agencies – Minnesota 8. Missouri  No  ‐  9. Nebraska  Yes  1,173  cited the importance of promoting departments like State 10. North  Yes  534  Patrol and Traffic Safety to direct audiences to relevant Dakota  11. Ohio  Yes  108  information as well as garner some of their followings 12. South  No  ‐  (Neville, 2012). Dakota  13. Wisconsin  Yes  1,844  Preparedness efforts – Illinois and Kentucky post regular preparedness messages that coincide with monthly themes established by the state agency or FEMA (Monken, 2012) (Rogers, 2012).  Media relations – Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin all spoke of the importance of following the media to make them aware of their presences on Facebook (Monken, 2012) (Neville, 2012) (McBride, 2012) (Pritchard, 2012). This is an increasing trend with Facebook – media’s instantaneous ability to share or repost information through following on Facebook. This ensures accuracy of information as well as a consistent message. Another added advantage is reducing reliance on media. “Social media relieves our need to completely rely on media to get information out. With only 20 or so minutes of news time, we have to compete with other stories to appear on the news. Now the individuals who want direct communication can have it,” says Sharon Watson, Public Affairs Director of Kansas Division of Emergency Management (Watson, 2012). Reviewing the followings of the ten states’ Facebook pages reveals the majority have a strong following of media members and outlets.  Monitoring – North Dakota, with only PIO Cecily Fong responsible for social media efforts, (amongst many other duties) and Minnesota, with a dedicated full time employee (FTE) for social media, stress the importance of using social media as a monitoring tool. “The most significant benefit is monitoring. It is great for rumor control. It allows us to see how information develops Page 11 of 30
  12. 12. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis Communication and how people are responding to our messages,” says Cecily Fong. Public Information Officer for North Dakota Department of Emergency Services (Fong, 2012).  Correcting misinformation – Because of the instantaneous nature of social media, there is often a race to be first with information, rather than accurate. If not monitored, misinformation can brew and grow. Facebook allows emergency management agencies to authoritatively correct the misinformation. Timely and accurate information breeds trusts and alleviates fear.  Unique aspects like campaigns and contests – Wisconsin and Kansas noted hosting contests on their Facebook pages as another way to engage users and increase following. The contests feature trivia questions about emergencies or quick responses in an exchange for prizes (Watson, 2012) (Pritchard, 2012).The above topics are each important elements of emergency management and help foster a relationshipwith followers. That is the key to Facebook – using it to build relationships. What about crises themselves?Each state interviewed had invaluable insight into how they are using Facebook to communicate before,during, and after disasters.As this report is being created, one instance is unfolding. February 29 through March 2, 2012, a series oftornadoes ripped through southern Indiana, devastating many areas and severely damaging severalcommunities. Visiting Indiana’s Facebook page, there is a fury of activity. March 1, Indiana started withposting photos of devastated areas, followed by damage reports and death tolls. March 2, posts highlightedthe best way to help disaster survivors in southeastern Indiana. The days that followed featured postsallowing people to register with a web site that lets family and friends know they are safe, shelter openings,telephone numbers for concerned citizens and survivors to call, updated reports, correction ofmisinformation in the media, Governor declarations of Disaster Emergency in specific counties, roadclosures, assistance sources, guidance for animal owners, travel information, meal deliveries for affectedareas, child care, counseling services, volunteer opportunities, and so much more. It truly is an exemplaryexample of how Facebook can and should be used during a crisis. Not surprisingly, the follower numbershave increased greatly throughout and following the disaster.A week prior, Ohio experienced an emergency of its own. The morning of February 27, 2012, a studentgunman open fired at Chardon High School cafeteria before just before 8:00 am. Three students were killedand two others wounded. Ohio’s McBride, said, “The incident did not rise to the level of state emergency Page 12 of 30
  13. 13. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis Communicationresponse, however, it was an exercise in monitoring social media information and correctingmisinformation (McBride, 2012).”Doug Neville, Director of Communications for Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency ManagementDivision discussed an incident surrounding the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating plant in January 2012. “Bythe time the JIC (Joint Information Center) was set up at 6:00, the rumor mill of misinformation was alreadyramped. As soon as we started participating in dialogue on Facebook by posting it was a non-nuclear event,the narrative changed immediately (Neville, 2012).”Wisconsin Emergency Management’s Preparedness Coordinator, Tod Pritchard, recollected on the 2011Ground Hog Day blizzard. “It turned into a major social media event. We were sending and monitoringposts regarding snow fall, accidents, etc., which helped us get a grasp on what was going on in differentareas (Pritchard, 2012).”Neville of Minnesota and I reminisced about the collapse of the I-35W Bridge, which I mentioned at thebeginning of this report. Doug stated, “It was an opportunity to get the right messages to the right people atthe right times. We focused on three main messages throughout our messages – this was not terroristactivity, get off your cell phones, and stay out of the area if you don’t need to be here.”These are just some of the many examples of ways Midwest states’ EMAs are using social media in theircrisis communication efforts. The efforts, however, do not go without their obstacles. As governmentagencies, many obstacles are in place that prevent seamless integration. Kentucky, for instance, is part ofmilitary affairs. This organizational structure limits access to online social media tools, requiring specialpermissions to access (Rogers, 2012). Kansas experiences this same issue being under the National GuardBureau Federal Network. This network determines allowable sites, requiring off network computers for anysocial media communication (Watson, 2012).With the exception of Minnesota and Kansas who have a dedicated FTE or an employee primarily focusedon social media activities, the majority of states do not experience the same luxury. Social mediacommunication is an additional job duty in already stressed budgets and resources. Most were humble toacknowledge this strain, but nonetheless, it exists.Social media takes time to do properly. “Lack of posting and activity on our Facebook page, leads to aslower increase in following,” acknowledges North Dakota’s Fong (Fong, 2012). Finding time to build andmaintain a strong following to justify their Facebook presences is a concern of all the states interviewed. Page 13 of 30
  14. 14. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationAll ten feature a link to Facebook on their web site pages. They promote Facebook through outgoingcommunication including news releases, e-mail auto signatures, public appearances, media interviews, andvarious campaigns.Several states specifically stressed the importance of following on Facebook. Following  Jonathon Monken (Monken, 2012) of Illinois – follow comparable entitites to share information  Nicole Lisabeth (Lisabeth, 2012) of Michigan – actively follow people and organizations to strategic get information out  Doug Neville (Neville, 2012) of Minnesota – follow organizations to build followings and push traffic to networks  Tamara McBride (McBride, 2012) of Ohio – follow other agencies that they would like to garnish their followershipWith the surge of social media activity, there are keys to making the information available and relevant whileusing Facebook. The graph below is from Buddy Media, a social media research group, demonstrating thedays of the week with the greatest engagement of Facebook users. Their research revealed 86 percent ofposts are published between Monday and Friday (Buddy Media, 2011). However, engagement rates fallapproximately 3.5 percent below averagefor posts published Monday throughWednesday, with engagement rates onSaturday being 18 percent below average(Buddy Media, 2011). This means the besttime of the week to post is towards theend of the week. This finding coincideswith data revealed by Facebook showingthat the ‘Happiness Index’ on Facebookspikes by ten percent on Friday. Accordingto Mari Smith, co-author of FacebookMarketing: An Hour a Day, engagement rates on Thursdays and Fridays are 18 percent higher than other daysof the week (Treadaway & Smith, 2010). Page 14 of 30
  15. 15. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationUnlike Baby Boomers and some Generation Xers who tailor the day around broadcast news times, youngergenerations are more spontaneous. Although posting during business hours is a convenient fit within theworkday, it is not necessarily the time in which digital natives access Facebook. The more removed fromtheir access time, the further down in their newsfeed the posts will appear – meaning they may not alwayssee the posts. The graph below from Buddy Media shows key engagement times throughout the day.The graph demonstrates how organizations post during business hours (blue bars), yet the engagement byindividuals consuming (green line) the information is greatly in contrast. Organizations that post outside ofnormal business hours experience 20 percent higher engagement rates (Buddy Media, 2011). Using socialmedia aggregators such as HootSuite, TweetDeck, Seesmic, and others can help by providing opportunitiesto schedule posts to automatically post to specified social networks, including Facebook.Another important consideration is access. A mobile technologies report from Pew Internet and AmericanLife Project reveals nearly half (46 percent) of American adults are smartphone owners as of February 2012,an 11 percent increase over the 35 percent of Americans who owned a smartphone in May 2011 (Smith,2012). This means more and more users are accessing social networks on their phone. Considering this,EMAs should attempt to limit posts to 80 characters or as close as possible to ensure users get the fullmessage. Buddy Media supports this with their report, showing posts 80 characters or less have 27 percenthigher engagement rates (Buddy Media, 2011).Timing is, of course, a consideration in preparedness and informational messages, rather than crisis. Incrisis, people want information and will consume it in rapid succession. Page 15 of 30
  16. 16. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationTWITTER The second most popular used social media toolamongst EMAs is Twitter. The platform has 200million accounts and is growing at a rate of 11accounts per second. Roughly 100 million accountsare active and over 50 percent log into their accountevery day (Manser, 2012). Not to mention, over 250million Tweets fly across the Twitterverse every day(Solis, 2012).The Wall Street Journal graphic at the right reminds usthat the average visitor spends 21 minutes on the site.It is significantly less than Facebook since it is not anengagement tool, but rather an informational tool. Forconsumers, it requires much less involvement. Usersgather the information they need and move on.Quantcast demographics for Twitter (November 2011) below is similar to Facebook’s demographics. Itshows users as predominantly female, aged 18 to 34, in higher income brackets Page 16 of 30
  17. 17. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationOf the 13 states, ten are currently using Twitter. Strategies for Followers tweeting vary from state to state, much more than Facebook. The as of  Twitter  March 1, primary usage appears to monitoring, situational awareness, State  Presence  2012 geographic understanding, immediate updates, news release links, 1. Illinois  No  ‐  2. Indiana  Yes  2,685 press conference real time information, photos, and pushing traffic 3. Iowa  Yes  1,250 to web sites and other networks. 4. Kansas  Yes  891  5. Kentucky  Yes  849 Michigan uses Twitter as its primary social media tool, not yet on 6. Michigan  Yes  2,327  7. Minnesota  Yes  1,770 Facebook. Nicole Lisabeth, Public Information Officer for 8. Missouri  No  ‐ Michigan State Police, Emergency Management, and Homeland 9. Nebraska  No  ‐ Security Division is deeply invested in the monitoring and usage. 10. North  Yes  806  Dakota “We started a few years ago just listening and observing on Twitter 11. Ohio  Yes  1,039  12. South and did not engage until we were comfortable. Now we primarily No  ‐  Dakota use it to send and share messages, but we also engage our followers. 13. Wisconsin  Yes  1,235The biggest benefit remains monitoring for situational awareness,”said Nicole Lisabeth (Lisabeth, 2012).Minnesota’s Neville especially enjoys the ability of the tool’s real time capabilities. “We treat feeds like ourown news channel and try to post in real time. As information comes in, our social media personreformulates it for posting on Facebook and Twitter. An example with Twitter is tweeting and postingpictures during press conferences and events,” says Doug Neville (Neville, 2012).Ohio does minimal tweeting, but utilizes Twitter for monitoring and tweeting during emergencies. NorthDakota’s Fong says, “From a communication standpoint, it makes it cleared that information is immediateand transparent. Responders are more proactive and realize they could be on camera (Fong, 2012).”All ten feature a link to Twitter on their web site pages. They promote Twitter, along with Facebook andother social media sites through their outgoing communication including news releases, e-mail autosignatures, public appearances, media interviews, and various campaigns.While Facebook is key in building and fostering relationships with followers, Twitter is more of aninformational tool – both for sending and monitoring information. “It allows us to address rumors andsituations before they get legs in a way we have never been able to do before,” says Michigan’s Lisabeth(Lisabeth, 2012). Page 17 of 30
  18. 18. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationThis is reflected in a blog posting by Glen Gilmore, Social Media Strategist, Attorney, and AdjunctProfessor at Rutgers teaching Digital Marketing and Social Media Law. His ‘10 Reasons Social Media IsImportant in a Real Crisis’ post includes:  ‘Official’ social media accounts created by governmental agencies can become a leading hub for sharing critical information. These official accounts give governmental agencies a chance to better participate in the online conversations taking place (Gilmore, 2010).  Social media beats traditional media in reporting news first; people flock to social networks in time of crisis; social media provides information before traditional media or relief workers can get to the scene of a disaster. Everyone is familiar with the iconic photograph of the airliner downed in the Hudson. Few realize that the first and likely most-viewed photograph of the downed plane was not taken by a Pulitzer prize-winning photographer from a major news network, but a guy on Twitter, @jkrums, who took the photograph with his cell phone, then uploaded the picture to Twitter, where it quickly crossed the globe (Gilmore, 2010).  Social media networks are dynamic: the content can be updated in real-time, from diverse users, to share the latest information about real needs and progress. In the aftermath of Katrina, relief agencies could use social networks to keep victims updated on supply deliveries and information on when utilities or other essential services will be restored (Gilmore, 2010).  Social networks can be used to enlist, direct, inspire, and thank volunteers. A constant in most disasters is the need for volunteers. Social media, by its sheers and viral nature, can be used to enlist volunteers for a variety of tasks. It can also provide the information volunteers need to safely and Page 18 of 30
  19. 19. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis Communication efficiently serve. Photos and videos of the work of volunteers can be used to inspire those volunteering their talents, as well as others who might be interested in helping too. It is also a great way to let volunteers know that their work is appreciated (Gilmore, 2010).  Social networks are reliable mediums for conveying important information far, wide, and quickly. If relief agencies take the time to really engage in social media, i.e., share information, follow others, comment, rewet links from other users, etc., they will develop a network they will be able to trust and that will trust them in return. The benefit? If a disaster were to occur, they could target critical information around the world (Gilmore, 2010).  Social networks help in reaching those who are often difficult to reach (Gilmore, 2010). Ontario Disaster Management Director of the Canadian Red Cross, Jeff Saunders posted the blog, ‘Twittering about Emergency Preparedness.’ In it, he writes, “I can already see the benefits. The audience that I engage with there are the group hardest to get with the preparedness message. Upward mobile, professionals between ages 30 – 45 are busy with their career, dating, family, mortgages, etc. (Saunders, 2010).” This is supported by the Quantcast graphics of Twitter. Not to mention, we are seeing a significant trend in younger generations migrating from Twitter to garner the benefits of more instantaneous information.  Curation: Twitter lists and hash tags are well suited for identifying reliable sources of up-to-date information. Twitter hash tags are a method used by Twitterers to identify topics of interest. During a crisis, they are used as a way of letting the social media network quickly identify the latest news on the disaster. Following the Chile earthquake, Twitter hash tags helped locate a missing person (Gilmore, 2010).  Geotagging by social network users provides important context to the information being shared. Only a small percentage of Twitter users have enabled geotagging. Nonetheless, the ability to include it in tweets is an option users could be encouraged to activate were they to find themselves in a disaster zone. This would allow rescuers to pinpoint with precision the location of users sending out requests for help. This is the very sort of scenario and option emergency responders should be considering as part of their responsibility to educate the public in advance of a disaster (Gilmore, 2010).Greg Gilmore’s information is truly insightful. Along with the fact that Twitter is simple, searchable,popular, available, and highly flexible, makes it a strong communication tool for emergency managers. Page 19 of 30
  20. 20. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis Communication“Social media has had a huge role in instantaneous information as both a blessing and a curse,” saysMichigan’s Lisabeth, “We are no longer able to control the message, but tools like Twitter help in quicklygetting the information out and wait for it to take off. The conversation is taking place with or without us,better we participate to provide the elements of accuracy and verification (Lisabeth, 2012).”Even more than Facebook, mobile issignificant. Half of all Twitter usersaccess the platform through theirmobile phones (Manser, 2012).What about non-emergency situationswhen trying to be consistent withpreparedness and awareness messages? Twitter has its own key posting and engagement timing strategies.TweetStats is a comprehensive tool that provides more detailed best tweeting times. Among other things,the app tells you how many tweets per day you’re currently sending, what your tweet timeline looks like, andhow many replies you send in comparison tooriginal tweets (Widrich, 2011).WhenToTweet, Tweriod, TweetReports, andTweetWhen are also good applications forhelping determine good tweeting times.These applications are good because theybase the tweeting time recommendations onyour actual followers and when they areonline.Outside of using an application for youspecifically, here are some general guidelines.According to an infograph created byKissMetrics visualizing research conductedby HubSpot’s Dan Zarella, the most trafficon Twitter occurs between noon and 6:00pm (Zarrella, 2011). More specifically, 9:00and 11:00 am ET and again between 1:00 and3:00 pm ET. That means more people are Page 20 of 30
  21. 21. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis Communicationtweeting and reading tweets during these time periods than any other (Dugan, 2011).If seeking retweets, Dan Zarella’s researchshows the key time is 5:00 pm. If you wantyour followers to complete an actionassociated with the tweet, such as click on alink, click through rates (CTR) are strongestmidweek and weekends at noon and 6:00 pm (Zarrella, 2011).It is important to realize that this is exceptionally general. Prime tweeting times vary from organization toorganization, depending on its followers and when they are accessing the platform. Twitter MarketingAgency’s studies show that for many Twitter users, Tuesday is the most active Twitter day. Wednesday andFriday have the second highest Twitter activity. Monday and Saturday are the slowest days. There are alsogeneral trends that people will check their Twitter accounts when they first get to work, at lunchtime,and/or near the end of their workday (Twitter Marketing Agency, 2011). Page 21 of 30
  22. 22. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationOTHER SOCIAL NETWORKS LinkedIn LinkedIn is touted as thee social network for business. Boasting over 150 million users in 200 countries andrepresenting executives from all 500 of the Fortune 500, there is no debating LinkedIn’s credibility orpower. Of the 13 states, I was able to connect with eight of the representatives on LinkedIn. Their uses varydramatically. Some simply have a presence and are exploring its opportunities, while others are significantlyengaged and participate in a variety of Groups on LinkedIn.The platform is obviously powerful for connections and resources, but as of right now the focus of socialmedia efforts for emergency management agencies does not appear to utilize LinkedIn. YouTube YouTube is a powerhouse. Over 800 million people visit the site worldwide every month. Primarydemographics are Hispanics, teens, and people with household incomes of over $100,000. YouTube offersgreater reach of both popular and hard to reach audiences than most other online destinations and withsolutions to engage them in authentic, meaningful ways.Each state I spoke with mentioned YouTube. Most use it for posting preparedness videos, broadcastinterviews, conference and workshop sessions, press conferences, disaster-stricken areas, victimtestimonials, and recovery agency notices. The platform is an exceptional tool for being an agency’s ownbroadcast channel. The relevance often lacks in the area of timeliness, because it takes time to create videosand upload them to the channel. There is not the instantaneous engagement found on Facebook andTwitter. Pinterest One year ago, Pinterest was not on the radar of being a relevant or valuable social network. According tocontent sharing firm Shareaholic, Pinterest drove 3.6 percent of all web traffic referrals to other sites inJanuary 2012, more than Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined. Pinterest placed just behind Twitterfor fourth place on that traffic referral list, with Facebook holding number one at 26.4 percent. In addition, Page 22 of 30
  23. 23. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis Communicationsince Pinterest became one of the apps that plug in to Facebook’s Timeline member profiles last month, thenumber of Facebook users visiting the site every day has jumped by 60 percent (Evangelista, 2012).From its exterior, Pinterest looks like a craft center of some sort with obvious value for brands, but whatabout emergency management? Although Pinterest was not discussed in my interviews, this site holdstremendous potential for EMAs. It will require an initial time investment but require only a fraction of themaintenance time of Facebook and Twitter.For instance, an EMA could create a Pinterest account. Within that account, it could create boards. Oneboard may be a ‘Disaster Preparedness Kit’ and contain pictures of each item recommended for creating akit. Another board could be for ‘Tornados’ and contain pictures of places to take cover, safety zones, etc.Yet another board could be for ‘Fires,’ showing visitors how to plan escape routes in their homes as well asproviding .jpg checklists. The potential for the site is limitless.Others The most interesting aspect of Pinterest is understanding that social media and its social networks areconstantly changing. Leaders like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, may come, go, evolve, or change. Newsocial networks are constantly emerging and presenting opportunities other networks do not provide.EMAs’ job is to evaluate the tools, determine if its communities are using the tool, and consider the valuethe platform may offer. Page 23 of 30
  24. 24. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationTRAINING AND MAINTENANCE All eight states interviewed received no initial training in establishing or using social networks. All beganwith trial and error, taking experience from their personal account creations. Kansas was fortunate to hire agraduate student from Kansas State University. “He was remarkable. He set up all our social media accountsand then trained departments and individuals. This was important because everyone has a different comfortlevel,” said Kansas’ Watson (Watson, 2012).This experience tends to be typical not just in EMAs, but in most public and private organizations. Socialnetworks are created intuitively enough for people to learn and experiment. The learning curve comes withusing the tools properly to build and engage a following.Considering social media platforms are constantly changing, it is a challenge for all states to stay current onthe platforms. Each of the eight states shared how their staffs keep current:  Illinois – Group of PIOs share best practices, attend FEMA training sessions, and their IEMSA agency provides social media training sessions during annual conferences (Monken, 2012).  Kansas – Trainings, conferences, and workshops, primarily. Mid-American Regional Council received a grant to hold social media disaster conference and was highly informative. FEMA conferences (Watson, 2012).  Kentucky – Workshops and discussions through FEMA, as well as hands-on experience (Rogers, 2012).  Michigan – Non-traditional means like reading blogs, attending sessions, monitoring, and YouTube video tutorials (Lisabeth, 2012).  Minnesota – Learning and presenting at conferences, networking, studying, and following trends (Neville, 2012).  North Dakota – Workshop session and robust government professionals group meetings (Fong, 2012).  Ohio – Training because people are very willing to share what they know, conferences, and taking advantage of FEMA’s whole digital media team that provides excellent training. Page 24 of 30
  25. 25. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis Communication  Wisconsin – Conferences, conference calls, and reaching out to fellow emergency management professionals for best practices.Not only does each of these states strive to stay current, they actively encourage their counties andmunicipalities to engage in social media platforms. Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio specificallyoffer training sessions and personnel resources to help these entities establish their online presences. Thisappears to be an exceedingly daunting task because of social media’s mounting time commitments, as well asstaying current on what platforms and aspects to teach.No matter what, social media is just that, a time commitment. To build a following that trusts in andengages with the content posted, it requires constant maintenance and interaction. People commenting orposting on any organizational web site have the right to expect an answer within two business hours. Duringa crisis situation, this should be immediate.Groups on LinkedIn regarding emergency management are a great resource and wealth of information. Page 25 of 30
  26. 26. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationCONCLUSION This research project was truly an inspiring and eye-opening experience. I consume crisis information with acompletely new understanding. Amidst the chaos of a crisis and communicating with individuals intimatelyinvolved in rescue and recovery efforts, as well as appropriate officials, emergency managers are now taskedwith communicating to their publics. This task previously was in the hands of the media, but with theimmediacy of social media, they have literally had no choice but to participate. It has great benefits in termsof an official voice, instantaneousness, addressing rumors, situational awareness, and so much more. It alsohas just as many downfalls.Most states lack the smartphone technology to post on site. Blackberry seems to secure and dominategovernment contracts. Although a great resource, it lacks the immediacy of iPhone and Droid capabilities,which are critical in disasters. Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, North Dakota, and Ohio have the capabilities ifindividuals use their personal devices; and Kentucky has tablets that help, but are still constrained byBlackberry. Minnesota and Wisconsin refreshingly have smartphone capabilities.Throughout this report, immediacy has remained a constant theme. People get information faster, plain andsimple. Jonathon Monken of Illinois says, “Social media has a broad reach, low cast, and hits segments thatare most likely to forward information onto others. In the same breath, it doesn’t hit the segment that needsthe information the most – the elderly (Monken, 2012).” As indicated in the demographics section of thisreport, there will always be populations who consume traditional forms of media. Thus, social media is notand cannot be a stand-alone. It must be used in conjunction with traditional forms of media.Watson of Kansas expressed another concern, “We do what we can within the resources we have. Oursocial media channels are not monitored 24/7. They are also not a replacement for 911, which we often seehappening, (Watson, 2012).” This is missing piece in education. Social media is just coming out of itsinfancy. As a nation, we have not integrated social media education into our curriculums to teach peoplehow to be safe, to be social, and what the tools are really for.The end of 2011, Adam Crowe of the web site, Strategies and Leadership in Critical Times of EmergencyManagement published a blog post, ‘Predictions for Social Media & Emergency Management in 2012.’ Inthe blog, his key prediction was Continued Avoidance: Many emergency management and public safetyorganizations will continue to ignore or avoid social media as a powerful tool (Crowe, 2011). Page 26 of 30
  27. 27. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationAfter completing my interviews, I respectfully agree to disagree. I am sincerely impressed by the adoption ofsocial media platforms and communications amongst the Midwest states. I respect their strategic approachin understanding the tools and their relevance before engaging. I see a greater adoption and a greaterawareness by emergency management agencies to not avoid, but embrace these tools to their fullest extent. Page 27 of 30
  28. 28. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationSOURCES Buddy Media. (2011). Strategies for Effective Facebook Wall Posts: A Statistical Review. Buddy Media.Carmichael, M. (2011, September 16). Whos Using What Media and When? Retrieved February 26, 2012, from AdAge: http://adage.com/article/adagestat/infographic-generational-media-usage-time-day/229831/Clayton, N. (2011, December 22). Social Networks Account for 20% of Time Spent Online. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/tech-europe/2011/12/22/social-networks-account-for- 20-of-time-spent-online/Cloutier, P. (2012, February 21). Why Crisis Communications Should Be Based On TRUST. Retrieved February 23, 2012, from Government in the Lab: http://govinthelab.com/why-crisis-communications-should-be- based-on-trust/comScore. (2011). It’s a Social World: Top 10 Need-to-Knows About Social Networking and Where It’s Headed. Reston, VA: comScore. Retrieved from http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Presentations_Whitepapers/2011/it_is_a_social_world_top _10_need-to-knows_about_social_networkingCoombs, P. T. (2007, October 30). Crisis Management and Communications. Retrieved February 1, 2012, from Institute of Public Relations: http://www.instituteforpr.org/topics/crisis-management-and- communications/Crowe, A. (2011, December 19). Predictions for Social Media & Emergency Management in 2012. Retrieved from Strategies and Leadership in Critical Times of Emergency Management : http://www.emergencymgmt.com/emergency-blogs/disasters20/6-predictions-SM-EM-2012- 121911.htmlDugan, L. (2011, September 22). The Best Time to Tweet is . . . Retrieved from All Twitter: http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/best-time-to-tweet-2_b13896Efrati, A. (2012, February 28). The Mounting Minuses at Google+. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204653604577249341403742390.htmlEvangelista, B. (2012, February 28). Pinterests fast growth driven by women. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 29, 2012, from http://www.sfgate.com/cgi- bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/02/27/BU2D1NBP0J.DTLFederal Emergency Management Agency. (2012, January 5). Emergency Management and the Use of Social Media . Retrieved February 22, 2012, from Federal Emergency Management Agency: http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=60217Fong, C. (2012, February 27). Public Information Officer for North Dakota Department of Emergency Services. (L. Boettcher, Interviewer)Gilmore, G. (2010, May 10). 10 Reasons Social Media Is Important in a Real Crisis. Retrieved from Glen Gilmore & Social Media: http://socialmediavoice.com/2010/05/10-reasons-why-social-media-is.htmlKirkpatrick, D. (2011). The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World. Simon & Schuster.Lisabeth, N. (2012, February 16). Public Information Officer for Michigan State Police, Emergency Management, and Homeland Security Division. (L. Boettcher, Interviewer) Page 28 of 30
  29. 29. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis CommunicationMadden, M., & Zickuhr, K. (2011). 65% of online adults use social networking sites. Pew Research Center, Pew Internet & American Life Project. Washington D.C.: Pew Research Center. Retrieved February 27, 2012, from http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2011/PIP-SNS-Update-2011.pdfManser, J. (2012, January 30). Twitter 2012 Statistics. Retrieved from Customer Insight Group: http://www.customerinsightgroup.com/marketinglibrary/twitter-2012-statisticsMcBride, T. (2012, February 27). Chief of Public Affairs at Ohio Emergency Management Agency. (L. Boettcher, Interviewer)Merchant, M. R., Elmer, M. S., & Lurie, M. M. (2011, July 28). Integrating Social Media into Emergency- Preparedness Efforts. New England Journal of Medicine, 289-291. Retrieved from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1103591#t=articleMissouri Department of Public Safety State Emergency Management Agency . (n.d.). State Emergency Management Agency Mission. Retrieved February 26, 2012, from Missouri Department of Public Safety State Emergency Management Agency : http://sema.dps.mo.gov/about/Monken, J. (2012, February 14). Director of Illinois Emergency Management Agency. (L. Boettcher, Interviewer)Neville, D. (2012, February 28). Director of Communications for Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division. (L. Boettcher, Interviewer)Pew Internet & American Life Project. (2011, May). Demographics of Internet Users. Retrieved October 2011, from Pew Internet & American Life Project: http://www.pewinternet.org/Static-Pages/Trend- Data/Whos-Online.aspxPew Internet & American Life Project. (2011). Social Media and Civic Life. Washington, D.C.: Pew Internet & American Life Project.Pirkl, J. J. (2011). The Demographics of Aging. Retrieved from Transgenerational Design Matters: http://transgenerational.org/aging/demographics.htmPogue, D. (2010, July 2). Humanity’s Database. The New York Times, p. BR 11.Pritchard, T. (2012, February 17). Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for Wisconsin Emergency Management. (L. Boettcher, Interviewer)Rogers, B. (2012, February 13). Public Information Officer for Kentucky Emergency Management Agency. (L. Boettcher, Interviewer)Saunders, J. (2010, May 4). Twittering about Emergency Preparedness. Retrieved from Red Cross Talks: http://redcrosstalks.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/twittering-about-emergency-preparedness/Smith, A. (2012). Senior Research Specialst, Pew Internet Project. Pew Internet and American Life Project. Washington D.C. : Pew Research Center. Retrieved March 3, 2012, from http://pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2012/Smartphone%20ownership%202012.pdfSocial Media Optimisation. (2011, May 28). Canada vs Australia Online Marketing Statistics & Trends 2011. Retrieved from SMO Social Media Optimisation Services: http://smooptimisation.blogspot.com/2011/05/canadian-vs-australia-online-marketing.htmlSolis, B. (2012, February 26). The State of the Twitterverse 2012. Retrieved February 26, 2012, from Brian Solis: http://www.briansolis.com/2012/02/the-state-of-the-twitterverse- Page 29 of 30
  30. 30. Midwest States’ Emergency Management Agency Use of Social Media Tools in Crisis Communication 2012/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+briansolis+%28Brian +Solis%29Treadaway, C., & Smith, M. (2010). Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day. Indianapolis, IN, USA: John Wiley and Sons.Twitter Marketing Agency. (2011). Twitter Marketing Tips: The Best Times to Tweet for Maximum Exposure. Retrieved from Twitter Marketing Agency: http://twittermarketingagency.com/uncategorized/twitter- marketing-tips-the-best-time-to-to-twitter-tweet-for-maximum-traffic-exposure-clicks/U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data, DP-1. Retrieved October 2011, from U.S. Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/doc/dpsf.pdfVan Grove, J. (2012, February 17). Americans spend 100K years on Facebook each month. Retrieved from VentureBeat: http://venturebeat.com/2012/02/17/facebook-engagement/Watson, S. (2012, February 28). Public Affairs Director of Kansas Division of Emergency Management. (L. Boettcher, Interviewer)Widrich, L. (2011, October 28). Top 5 Tools to Better Time Your Tweets. Retrieved from Mashable: http://mashable.com/2011/10/28/best-time-to-tweet/Wikipedia. (2012, January 25). Crisis communication. Retrieved February 1, 2012, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crisis_communicationZarrella, D. (2011, June 16). The Science of Social Timing Part 1: Social Networks. Retrieved from HubSpot and KissMetrics: http://blog.kissmetrics.com/science-of-social-timing-1/ Page 30 of 30