Now that we’ve talked about how who is using social media and what they do on there.
Well, the first step is monitoring. You can’t really know how to succeed in using socialmedia if you’ve never actually seen it in use. So start an account. Today. A personal one, notan agency one, just something to play around with. Make a Facebook account for your dog.Follow your favorite baseball team on Twitter. Organize recipes on Pinterest. Look for whattypes of posts succeed. Look for how often really successful people post. Save insightfularticles. Keep an eye out for pitfalls to avoid. Become an expert.These are the tools that I use to monitor what’s going on on social media. I keep hootsuite running in the background all day long with certain select hashtags that I like to monitor. I don’t watch all day, but check into it throughout the day. Things like Topsy, SocialMention and Geofeedia I use once I’m alerted to something. Google Alerts is just that, a long-term alerting tool. But I want to call out Bottlenose and Tweetgrid. Both were excellent monitoring tools that, for one reason or another stopped working for free. Bottlenose went premium only and Tweetgrid went away because of API changes. It’s important to note that with social media, these things change. Best practices change, tools change, everything changes. You can’t rest on your laurels and have one set process because the field chnages so quickly that what you did last week can very quickly go away.
How can you manage ALL of the social media? Well, there’s lot of ways to do it. Agencies and companies and people that use social media professionally need a way to let it not take over their lives. In response to that, lots of companies that help manage that burden have sprung up. There are apps to help you manage multiple accounts and networks like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and Seesmic. Some of these apps let you schedule messages, which is key to making sure you’re not always chained to your computer. But there are other tools that do that, too, like Buffer. One thing to make sure to note, though, is to turn these scheduled posts off in the face of a disaster. You don’t want to be the agency tweeting about something silly when the country is reeling during a day like the Boston Marathon. IFTTT is a great tool for automating your online presence. It stands for If This, Then That. Basically, if some thing happens, literally any of a hundred somethings, then something else should happen. If you post to a Facebook Page, IFTTT will also post to Twitter for you. If you favorite a tweet, it will save the tweet in a Dropbox document for record-keeping requirements. (Log in and show this off) Finally, you should know about URL shorteners. These arose as Twitter got more popular and website addresses that were forty and fifty characters long stopped being useful. Bitly is a tool that allows you to assign a shorter web address to a website. When someone goes to that Bitly address, they are automatically forwarded to your website. And bitly has a pretty robust analytics program, too, if you use them. (Also, so does Buffer and Hootsuite)
We have to talk about hashtags. We’ve all seen the Saturday Night Live skits making fun of people who talk in hashtags. As a big proponent of hashtags, few things annoy me as much as people who talk like that. A hashtag is little more than a description, a way to describe something. If I was going to be completely annoying, I would hashtag today’s class as social media, maryland, jimgarrow, things like that. And then anyone who wanted to see what was going on in social media today would see this class. Or if someone wanted to see what I’ve been involved in, they would search for jimgarrow and would see this class, and the meeting I had yesterday and my wife ten months pregnant.If I wanted to look for things on emergency management, I could look search for that term on Twitter. Let’s try that. Not much comes up. Part of that is because it’s such a huge term and using it on Twitter kind of limits how much else you can say due to character limits. So, years ago, some of the first people on Twitter who were in social media came up with another term, smem, that they use to talk about social media and emergency management. At the beginning there were really two competing hashtags, smem and sm4em. Eventually, over time, we all moved to smem, coalesced around that term and now everyone uses that. This is an important point, because when we come up with a term to describe something, that doesn’t mean that’s the term that everyone uses. A great example comes from Scotland. A few years ago, they had a massive storm come through and all of the government agencies decided to describe all of their preparedness and emergency messages with ScotStorm. But the public didn’t use that term hardly at all. They all coalesced around the term HurricaneBawbag. It was a traditional Scotch middle finger to the storm. So when people got on Twitter to look for information about the storm, they looked for that term, not ScotStorm. And research has shown that the messages delivered by the government had a much more limited reach than would be expected and the researchers supposed it was because of the disconnect between the terms they were using and the terms the public was using. Now I’m not saying we should just go and be crude, but we should be aware of the hashtags that others are using.(Talk about each of the examples given)
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention chats and livetweeting. These are two of the most powerful things you can do on Twitter and are primary drivers of not only engagement, but also relationship building. We’ll start off with twitterchats. They are just like the word implies: wide-ranging conversations, or chats, on Twitter. It’s best described with an example, so I’ll use the sm4ph chat that I run. The sm4ph hashtag is about social media and public health. Every Wednesday night at 9pm, I’ve got a series of conversation-inducing questions around a particular topic scheduled. Tomorrow our chat is about new moms and social media. Two weeks ago we talked about big data. In a few weeks (Valentine’s Day) we’re going to talk about sexually transmitted diseases. Folks who are interested in the topic are encouraged to answer the questions and chat with the other participants. The chat is organized around the hashtag, so people just do a search for that hashtag: sm4ph, and see all of the tweets that are on that topic. Then they can join in. There are other chats, too, hcsm is about health care and social media (and it’s one of the biggest and best chats out there). CDC does one, too. There are dozens of them, and I want to make sure I point out smemchat, which happens every Friday at 12:30, where emergency managers from around the globe talk about social media and emergency stuff. There are chats about everything, palliative care, journalism, you name it. I didn’t put it on the slide, but another chat I run is about the tv show, the walking dead. When the show is on, I chat with a few public health folks about public health lessons in the show. And you’d be surprised at how many there are in the apocalypse!
I want to talk about websites a bit, too. How many of you are confident that your agency’s website can handle an emergency? Probably not. The FBI thought there’s would when they released composite images of the Marathon bombers, and the site lasted all of a minute before it crashed under an avalanche of people looking for information. Can you deal with a million plus hits at once? Very few sites can. The problem, though, is that most of our EOPs talk about putting information on the website as the primary way of getting info out in an emergency. Therefore, I recommend folks start looking toward developing incident-specific websites. You have an explosion, and you’re calling it something specific, you should have a website that uses that name. A great example, while not a website, was the awesome JoplinTornadoInfo Facebook Page. After that tornado, folks went online and looked for information on the joplin tornado. Literally, that’s what they typed in. And they found the Page. And the Page got 40,000 Likes in about eight hours.So when your site crashes, where should people look for information? I recommend setting up a free blog. You don’t need to develop any of the backend and you can update them in real-time, often. These sites, Wordpress and Blogspot, are designed for 99.99% uptime, with literally millions and millions of hits per second all day, every day. Your disaster, no matter how bad, will drive but a small fraction of the traffic they usually get. They. Will. Not. Go. Down. Definitely consider this as a backup possibility.
Another interesting thought about using social media has to do with internal communications. How do your people talk in the aftermath of a situation? How did you communicate after the earthquake? After the earthquake, we ran outside and everyone got on their phone and tried calling their families and friends. Calls dropped everywhere. Same with the Phillies World Series parade. Couldn’t make a call. Even SMS messages were delayed due to this insane volume. But if you opened a browser on your smartphone, you could load up any page you wanted to, easily. The data circuits were WIDE open. So social media worked perfectly during the earthquake. Why not use that to help guide internal comms?In Philly, we’re talking about setting up private Twitter accounts that all follow each other for our senior staff. We can send tweets that would only be seen by the approved accounts of other senior leadership and could serve as a backup form of communication and coordination if more traditional forms of comms go down. I know that some places have experimented with doing something similar on Facebook, but I’m not a huge fan of it because Facebook is such a bandwidth hog, where as Twitter is little more than SMS messages delivered via digital circuits.Another tool that we’ve used successfully is called GroupMe. It’s a messaging app that works like a listserv. Posting a message to a group in the smartphone app delivers it to everyone in the group. When people reply, it goes to everyone. You can privately message in the app, too. But the reason that we chose this app was that in the absence of a data circuit, it automatically fails over to SMS. Every group gets a phone number and texting that number sends a text message, or a message in the app, to everyone in the group. This works if people have flip, or dumb, phones, too. They can participate seamlessly. Definitely something to check out.
First off, information responders provide to the public. This is an important one, because this isn’t a big change. Every emergency manager out there will tell you that “getting the word out” is an important part of responding. It’s just that social media has turned that idea on it’s head. I have five examples of the new world of information dissemination.
FDNY’s standard protocol for emergency requests sent via social media is to redirect them to call 911. And that’s how her night started off. People wrote to @FDNY on Twitter asking for help with evacuation or whatever. She rebuffed them, as is required due to department policy. Now, I’m not saying this course of action is wrong; it’s the only way public safety agencies can handle what would most assuredly be a flood of requests. There’s no easy way to translate tweets into the 911 system, it wasn’t designed that way.But then one person tweeted her asking for help. She directed them to 911, and he replied that he couldn’t call because the power was out and cell networks were overloaded. He was in a flooding house and Twitter was his only means of communication, the only way he could ask for help. Emily found a supervisor and they figured out a protocol that formally redirected people to 911, but if they couldn’t do that, had her figuring out which borough dispatcher was the right one and placing an internal call to them to request help.We’ll never know if Emily’s quick thinking and flexibility saved lives, but frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. Social media was an useful as any dispatch system.
And then, Boston. Many, many of us lived the events there through social media.How many of you checked on someone who you knew was in Boston? How many used social media to do it? Messaged them on Facebook?How many of you watched the explosions on YouTube? Or supplemented your media coverage by checking social media? How many of you expressed solidarity, hope, prayers or sadness online?
Boston PD, that first day, found social media to be SUCH a powerful force, this is the radio call they made while the bomb squad searched the hundreds of bags left all around the finish line.
This tweet was sent mere minutes after the arrest of the second suspect in the Boston bombings. Approved on-site by tweeting Deputy Commissioner John Daley it demonstrates how quickly information moves these days.
Social media isn’t only useful for massive, huge, world-changing disasters, y’know. A couple of weeks ago, my hometown made the national news due to a botched demolition that fell into an active Salvation Army store. Six people ended up dying, with more than a dozen others getting transported to hospitals. The fire department, being the coordinators of PA Task Force 1, the local Urban Search and Rescue team, was incident commander. Police maintained the scene. Emergency management and Red Cross supported the responders and response. The Health Department was not, and should not, have been called in. Because things were so busy for those other agencies, the social media aspect of the response ended up not happening, despite massive media interest and posting on social media networks, especially Twitter. I got the call from our Commissioner’s Office to start retweeting the response agencies posts and sharing information updates as they were approved for release. Not as part of a JIC, but just as a way to broaden the scope of the City’s public information releases. The problem was that I was returning from a conference in Raleigh, North Carolina and was watching what was going on on CNN in the airport bar! So I pulled out my trusty iphone, connected to a power source and went to work. We retweeted every response agency’s tweet. We looked for elucidating information and diagrams. We gave updates on public transit changes. We communicated the boundaries of the response and asked folks to stay away to the responders could do their work. At one point, our account name was the second-highest trending term on Twitter in Philadelphia. We became the single, best source for official information release from a City agency. Not because we were specially placed in a JIC or because we were privy to inside information. It’s because I had a few hours to kill in an airport bar and a phone. That’s the power of social media today in emergencies.
We, as responders are also learning that we’re not the only ones with information about disasters. The public is generally there and they’ve got social media to spread the word.
One only has to see images like this.
How can emergency managers look at these images and not see that this is ground-truth. This is the intelligence every IC begs for in a disaster. With geo-location, we can see exactly what’s happening, exactly where it’s happening, and in many cases, exactly AS it’s happening. All we have to do is accept that the public can be our media and give us information.
And you can see how this worked from a mobile perspective. That yellow line on the left chart is when ConEd cut the power to lower Manhattan, you can see the huge spike in homes without power. The red arrow on the right chart is pointing at the exact same moment in time on the 29th. When the power went out, people didn’t stop using social media, in fact, they used it more! People got on their phones and kept right on tweeting away.
You’ll remember last year, the outbreak of H7N9 influenza in eastern China. What you don’t remember was that it seemingly happened all at once. There was nothing, then it was everywhere. And that’s because, I think, of this image. This is a hospital record from March 31 that diagnosed a patient as having H7N9. The official government stance at the time was that there were no cases. This image was posted to the Chinese social network, Weibo and immediately went viral.
The red arrow here is pointing to March 31. The dots are published reports of H7N9 in China. Think the two events were connected?
Twitter faster than earthquakes video
And the social media aspects of Sandy didn’t stop with the response. The recovery was studded with social media. In some cases, like that green/yellow/red picture there where the public was asked to crowd-source damage assessments to help FEMA focus on the areas where they were needed the most. And in other cases where the public took matters into their own hands via social media to help with recovery. Groups like Occupy Sandy provided troops to check on trapped folks until the Red Cross and National Guard could get there. Blogs like Sandy Sucks acted as clearinghouses for information on recovery needs and opportunities. And even non-affiliated folks did something, like getting the wifi up at a Starbucks, or hooking up a series of power strips so folks could re-charge their phones. All of this was almost always organized by social media.
But the big test of VOST came last summer, when a wildland fire started up by Shadow Lake, on Mount Washington, in Oregon. While the fire was of little danger of affecting the public, it rapidly grew out of control. The federal Incident Management Team’s PIO wanted to keep an eye on social media, so she activated the nascent VOST to support the official response. 15 emergency managers from around the world conducted targeted searches and monitoring around the Shadow Lake wildland fire and reported back to the PIO on what the internet was saying, providing situational awareness to the Incident Commander.
At one point, the VOST found a tiny little blog had posted a blog post on the ORFire teams using a tiny little bridge to get to an area to stage resources. The blogger snapped some photos of the trucks, and complained that, while the truckers were placing themselves in danger from using this historical, rickety bridge, they risked damaging a key thoroughfare that the local used. In hours, the VOST identified the blogger, and connected them with the IMT PIO, who coordinated with the Operations and Planning Sections to ensure that no more trucks used that bridge. While this situation may have stopped at this tiny, completely unheard of blog, the complaints may very well have gone viral and generated significant public outcry directed at the response for their tone-deafness and heavy-handed approach. Being forced to deal with this outcry would have undoubtedly taken the IC and PIO away from their primary goal, fighting the fire.
One and a half hour of message crafting using the press releases provided.
One and a half hour of message crafting
Half hour? of message crafting using the Social Media Exercise instructions document.
Privacy is an especially important part of this exercise because now we can write whatever we want and no one will be the wiser. Using real, live social media accounts for exercises is dangerous because they can be misinterpreted (even if they say EXERCISE in real big letters). A classic example is from the Boston Marathon bombings, when a county in New Jersey just happened to be doing a bomb squad exercise that day, and used social media as part of their training. For a crazy half hour, they were bombarded by calls from local media about the connection to Boston. Today, we’ll be avoiding all of that. If anyone is interested in how to set this up for your own exercise, we can walk through it at the end of the day. There are tools out there, specifically LiveFyre that will simulate a real social media exercise with incoming and outgoing messages. But, it costs.
Social Media in Disasters: Real Life Experiences and the Tools Needed to Succeed
Social Media in Disasters:
Real Life Experiences
and the Tools
Needed to Succeed
• Best Practices
• Social Media in Emergencies
– Press Releases
– The Blizzard
• Professional social media goal?
• Personal social media goal?
"One of those trucks went across the bridge!" she told me.
"Wow. Even the school bus doesn't cross that bridge. It's not designed for large trucks.
When we saw them going up that road, we wanted to run out and
wave our hands, yelling wrong way, wrong way!“