Social media use in times of crisis


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This is a presentation I prepared for a program at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. I pulled together social media best practices and tried to map them to the phases of the emergency management cycle. The presentation ends with a "To do" list for government agencies and recommendations on how to design a social media strategy that fits into each of the phases to create community and interaction when it is needed

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  • 19% sagen, dass sie Vertrauen in ihre Regierung haben (= Regierungsorgane)81% sagen, dass die Regierung nur selten oder nie trauen
  • Americans primarily use social media to maintain connections with family and friends, with approximately two-thirds reporting this as a main reason for use to learn more about consumer products (60%), read consumer feedback (66%),connect with others who share a hobby or interest (14%), meet new people (9%), ead famous people’s comments (5%), and seek new romance (3%) (NM Incite, 2011; Pew Internet, 2011). Instead gratification nature of each social networking platform drives consumption habits and use.
  • Web 1.0Few content creatorsUni-directionalStaticPush technologyWeb 2.0: “Social Web”Presentation & scripting: Sites and applications allow user interaction; many content creatorsStructural:Purpose and layout – exchange content of any kind (text, audio, video)Sociological:Friends and groups; democratic nature; tag, comment
  • FEMA:The public uses social media tools regularlyRather than trying to convince the public to adjust to the way we at FEMA communicate, we must adjust to the way the public communicates by leveraging the tools that people use on a daily basis.
  • For example, examining Twitter communication related to the 2011 Las Conchas wildfire threat to Los Alamos National Laboratory, researchers found some Twitter users were passive, not tweeting or re-tweeting, only filtering information via Twitter hashtags and searching for information to help mitigate risk and reduce uncertainty
  • Not a core respnsibility of government, but a core need of citizens and survivors.
  • Social media can become the primary source of time-sensitive disaster information, especially when official sources provide information too slowly or are unavailable (Spiro et al., 2012). For example, during the 2007 California wildfires, the public turned to social media because they thought journalists and public officials were too slow to provide relevant information about their communities
  • Education about a warning system is needed before an eventAlertiing needs to attract attention
  • Misinformation, uncertainty, and fragmented info. peaks early in a crisis and diminishes over time
  • Social media demands that governments communicate in new ways. Briefly. Frequently. Directly.
  • U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention created a social media campaign that provided humorous education guide focused on how to prepare for a zombie apocalypseThe blog post received more than two million page views within on week in May 2011 launchZombie campaign made CDC more ‘life-like” – instead of robotic agencyCampaigns and trusted information needs to be released before the actual event/emergencyLight-heartednessPlayful, so that it reaches all audiences (educators, students, in extension then the families/adults)-
  • Spent $87 on the campaign logo & comic- Generated over $3.4 worth of media campaign- Team of two people
  • Speed and AccuracyReduction of Missed EventsUniformity and Flexibility
  • An example eastern US earthquake CIIM for a magnitude 4.6 in Alabama. Inset (boxon main figure) shows smooth variations in intensity and regional extent of the data. There were16,941 individual responses for this earthquake.Interactivity & citizen sciencesprovides a unique opportunity for “citizen science”allowing scientists to obtain vast data collections in ways not otherwise or previously possibleexpands the observational base for data collectionalso empowers the community to take ownership and allow better understanding of important scientific issues of the day
  • WHAT IF 911 operators cannot handle the amount of requests?Using social media to create resilient/parallel infrastructure, when all other channels are unavailable. -> Speak in an authoritative voice, provide instant feedback, let others follow along and read12-14 hours shifts during storm (day & night)Before the storm, never tweeted before.Instead of “Trust us” (everything is under control), the ConEdison account, tweeted in a different voice “We hear you” -> Building community and long-term trust.In the aftermath of Sandy, @ConEdison’s follower count has grown nearly 30-times, from 800 to just over 22,000.Con Edison spokeswoman, Sara Banda is quoted saying that social media “allows companies like us to be part of the media. We can get information out directly to our customers, and that’s a great thing.”Building systems of survival (resilient infrastructures): Go beyond informing and broadcasting or marketing…email & Twitter before storm communicate about safety and prepareafter storm passed: amount of damage and the amount of effort it takes to restore Use of Twitter to communicate about tents with generators to allow customers to recharge their cellphones, electronic equipment, ice and food, explain outage and damaged equipmenteducate the public to get power to schoolshistorically only during office hours, 15 hours a day, 7 days/week17 days, 7 days a week, 900 twitter messages, 9,000 messages directed at us, exceeded daily allowance, expand daily capacity in partnership with Twitter
  • · Source additional information from affected areas during emergencies to better serve those who need help;· Spot trends and better anticipate the public’s needs; and· Connect people with the resources they need, like food, water, shelter or even emotional support.
  • Decentralized content creation For centralized decision making by a single point of contact Increase trust One voice Created content can then be shared out to all other mediaDon’t do too many tools (widgets, Android, iphone, Google+, and different accounts for different purposes) -> Single point of contact
  • Don't do what FEMA did for Hurricane Irene with mobile apps, a mobile site, a normal site, a blog, SMS alerts, etc. Don't make people think they have to check 10 different sources to stay up to date. Try to make it easy and clear for them.Choose mobile optimized channels.Make sure your channels won't go down. If your site isn't stress-tested, don't rely on it. A site that won't load is worthless. (Isn't there an example of some Google site being used instead of an site during Sandy?)Social media channels are a great option for official communications. They're reliable, they're mobile optimized, and they're designed to spread your message.Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr are options. While Tumblr has had reliability issues in the past, one major advantage of Tumblr is that it's highly customizable. You can make it look like a normal website available on a custom URL.If you are operating at the federal level and are setting up a new social media channel, make sure you register it as an official government social media account at information gatheringSet up operations to gather information and verify it internally. Turn that information into clear, trustworthy messages to be published through your official channels.Missouri used Measured Voice to do this when providing official messaging in response to the Joplin tornado. Gathered information from multiple state agencies and FEMA and sent them through a few official social media project: to share.Be calm and carry on! Seriously, be calm and straightforward. Tell people what they can do, even if it's just to "carry on."Post regularly throughout the situation. Post updates to tell people if there are no new updates. Show people you're alive.
  • Misinformation, uncertainty, and fragmented info. peaks early in a crisis and diminishes over time Official press release not much longer: Does not say more, even though it feels/sounds more officials
  • Governance: Commitment and buy-in from senior leadership and political officials at the state level is more than double that at the county and local levels.Processes: Formally defined and tested processes and procedures lag behind social media use.Technology: Technology used for other purposes in an agency is often used in an ad hoc fashion to support basic social media operations, such as posting status updates.Data/Analytics: Data-extraction efforts at all levels are still reliant upon manual review, making monitoring efforts difficult to scale-up during large disasters.
  • The graph represents a network of 503 Twitter users whose recent tweets contained "NYTstorm", taken from a data set limited to a maximum of 1,500 users. The network was obtained on Saturday, 09 February 2013 at 06:48 UTC. There is an edge for each follows relationship. There is an edge for each "replies-to" relationship in a tweet. There is an edge for each "mentions" relationship in a tweet. There is a self-loop edge for each tweet that is not a "replies-to" or "mentions". The tweets were made over the 10-hour, 48-minute period from Friday, 08 February 2013 at 19:49 UTC to Saturday, 09 February 2013 at 06:37 UTC.The graph is directed.The graph's vertices were grouped by cluster using the Clauset-Newman-Moore cluster algorithm.The graph was laid out using the Harel-Koren Fast Multiscale layout algorithm.The edge colors are based on relationship values. The edge widths are based on edge weight values. The edge opacities are based on edge weight values. The vertex sizes are based on followers values. The vertex opacities are based on followers values.Overall Graph Metrics:Vertices: 503Unique Edges: 1581Edges With Duplicates: 481Total Edges: 2062Self-Loops: 346Reciprocated Vertex Pair Ratio: 0.193296960249415Reciprocated Edge Ratio: 0.323971260613978Connected Components: 21Single-Vertex Connected Components: 19Maximum Vertices in a Connected Component: 482Maximum Edges in a Connected Component: 2036Maximum Geodesic Distance (Diameter): 5Average Geodesic Distance: 2.172707Graph Density: 0.00606322226006511Modularity: 0.339618NodeXL Version: 10 Vertices, Ranked by Betweenness Centrality:nytimesbrianstelterNYTLivenycjimlisatozziSlaughterAMSamSiftonlexinytSkoknicPrimerImpacto 
  • Treat the public as a emergency management resource:Solicit public input for creative solutions to government challengesFor example: 2010-2011 FEMA challengeIdeas for innovative and effective ways communities can prepare for a disaster before it strikesOver 150 submissions from the publicFEMA then promoted winning ideas on their own websiteAdditional mechanism for sharing ideas and best practices across the emergency management community.
  • Social media strategy:Who's going to do what, when, and why? Always ask why!
  • Social media use in times of crisis

    1. 1. 6/16/20131Social mediain times ofcrisisProfessor Dr. Ines MergelMaxwell School of Citizenship and Public AffairsSyracuse University 2013 National Preparedness Report:
    2. 2. 6/16/20132Agenda Reasons for the use of socialmedia in the public sector Social media use as part of theCrisis Management Cycle Preparedness Response Recovery Learning for the future Government’s To-do listAssessthe RiskMitigate thethreatPrepareEVENTRespondRecoverLearnCrisisManagementCycleLow confidence of citizens that theirgovernment can get the job done:
    3. 3. 6/16/20133 communication withthe public“There is a lot of buzz about socialmedia. I’m not so much looking at thedifferent tools, like YouTube, Twitter, orblogging, as thinking that it’s really openedup something that government never hadbefore—two way conversations with thepublic.”FEMA’s “Whole Community” approach:“… recognizes that individuals, familiesand communities are our greatest assetsand key to our success. […] Social mediaprovides the tools needed to minimizethe communication gap and participateeffectively in an active, ongoing dialogue.Social media is an important part of the“Whole Community” approach because ithelps to facilitate the vital two-waycommunication between emergencymanagement agencies and the public.”Craig FugateFEMA administrator
    4. 4. 6/16/20134Traditional information paradigmChanging the government informationparadigm…
    5. 5. 6/16/20135Citizens use social media in crisissituations in different ways Turned to blogs for emotionalrelease and support Logged onto Twitter to find anddistribute breaking news Watched and posted YouTubevideos specifically to view andshare shocking disastervisuals. of authorities vs.mainstream media
    6. 6. 6/16/20136Reasons for the use of social media• Convenience• Social norms(1) Their friends and family frequently use it and/or(2) They trust and ascribe a high level of credibility to social media• Personal recommendations• For humor and levity• Information seekingAccess to information:Pew: The State of News Media 2012:
    7. 7. 6/16/20137 searchType of information• Timely information real-time disaster information,which no other media can Unique information Unfiltered informationReasons for search To determine disastermagnitude To check in with family andfriends, maintain a sense ofcommunity and for social,emotional and healing support To self-mobilize: Createhashtags, ad hoc developmentof community structuresSource: National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (2012): Social media useduring disasters.
    8. 8. 6/16/20138Neighbor-to-neighbor organized shoveling teams during snowstorm February 8-111, 2013Neighbors provide power during Hurricane #Sandy on emergencies and crises: “Milling”: interact with others toconfirm information People seek social confirmation ofwarnings before taking protectiveaction Develop a view about the risksthey face at the moment and theirpossible responses Result: Lag between the time awarning is received and thetime protective action is takenSocial media provide a new way to reduce lag time interactionsamong individuals:• Informal dissemination of warning messages• Monitoring the public response• Listen to incorrect information• Rewarning based on observations
    9. 9. 6/16/20139Reasons the public does not use socialmedia Privacy & security fears Accuracy concerns Access issues Knowledge deficienciesFear mongering, fake information,rumors, …
    10. 10. 6/16/201310Why social media in times of crisis? Develop and maintain atrusted voice Government has the uniqueability to keep calm in times ofcrisis Trusted feeds Developing influence Causal relationship Social media use rises duringdisasters as people seekimmediate and in-depthinformation Respond immediately toofficial posts Want immediate feedbackThe role of social media in a crisis Team building: laying thegroundwork by establishing atrusted, familiar social media EMpresence well before disasterstrikes Intelligencegathering/situationalawareness: both the public andthe authorities use social media tofind out what’s happening beforeand during an event, especially onthe “hyper-local” scale Information distribution: SMchannels are essential, new-normal conduits for getting theword out on every type of issue• Build positivecitizenexperience• Unity =Governmentorganizations areon the same side
    11. 11. 6/16/201311PreparednessSocial media recognized as officialemergency management tool:
    12. 12. 6/16/201312Ready.govCDC – Preparedness Blog
    13. 13. 6/16/201313 theevent
    14. 14. 6/16/201314Crowdsourcing citizen data Real-time information sourcesto strengthen validity andreliability of information =collective intelligence Situational “first-hand”intelligence combined withtraditional situational awareness& social intelligence FEMA’s “Whole Community”approach: Citizens = “first”first respondersUSGS Community Internet IntensityMaps
    15. 15. 6/16/201315Geo-location of developing incidencesand impacted populationsWireless Emergency Alertmessage sent by MEMA Massachusetts EmergencyManagement Agencydisseminated alerts via“ping4alerts” appSutton, J., Johnson, B., Spiro, E., and Butts, C. (2013). “Tweeting What Matters: Information, Advisories, andAlerts Following the Boston Marathon Events.” Online Research Highlight.
    16. 16. 6/16/201316EmergencyResponsePreventing a panic, one tweet at a time :”We hear you!” @ConEdison Public AffairsTwitter account during HurricaneSandy:“We really aren’t taking breaks.Were getting so many questionsso quickly and we’re really justtrying to put everyone at easeand trying to bring someinformation to them,” Frascasaid. “Everyone is so scared andthey just want to know what’sgoing on.”@conEdison
    17. 17. 6/16/201317RedCrossSocial Media Command Center, OK:City Facebook page to inform citizens how to help
    18. 18. 6/16/201318Problem:”YouTube, Facebook, Twitter andothers were not created for thepurpose of preparing for, respondingto, or recovering from emergenciesand disasters.”Craig Fugate (FEMA) testifying in Congress, May 2011Measured Voice – editing tool
    19. 19. 6/16/201319Editorial historyFind a trusted, measuredvoice on social media…. Centralize communication around a few reliable channels. Decentralize information gathering Choose mobile optimized channels. Just because people socialize and crack jokes on Twitter doesn’t meanyou have to. Don’t confuse the genre for the medium. Focus on mission. Make sure your channels wont go down. Be calm and carry on! Seriously, be calm and straightforward. Tellpeople what they can do, even if its just to "carry on."
    20. 20. 6/16/201320The FBI is aware of published reports alleging that an FBIlaptop was compromised and private data regarding AppleUDIDs was exposed. At this time there is no evidenceindicating that an FBI laptop was compromised or that theFBI either sought or obtained this data.Example:FBI diffusing rumors on social mediaSocialmediaPressrelease
    21. 21. 6/16/201321RecoveryUsing big data… or simply government data
    22. 22. 6/16/201322Utah fire info – governmentwebsite with live updates &mapping apps needed forinstant feedback and help Red Cross mobile apps
    23. 23. 6/16/201323Government’sTo DosLessons Learned from previous socialmedia use in disaster situationsGovernanceProcessesTechnologyData/Analytics
    24. 24. 6/16/201324Do your social media “homework” Measure how many constituents payattention to social media (outputs) # of comments on posts => # ofresulting discussions started # of links from other sites => Cross-postings & reuse of information Understand who the social media &knowledge hubs are in online socialmedia networks (see NodeXL #nemo) Outtakes Endorsements by traditional media “Believeability” of information # of shares # of likes # positive comments Measure social media outcomes: How does social media affect thepublic’s behavior? Pre- & post-event trust Level of engagement Attitude changes as a consequenceof social media exposureNodeXL network visualization of Twitter exchanges during #nemoblizzard (February 2013)
    25. 25. 6/16/201325Learn from the publicChallenge.govDesigning asocial mediastrategy
    26. 26. 6/16/201326Mission-driven…Crafting your social media policy
    27. 27. 6/16/201327Designing a social media strategyWhy? Who? What? How? For whom? Where? Did it work?Organizationalmission• Responsibilities• Roles• Broadcasting• Informationsharing• Fact checking• Communitymanagementandengagement• Transparency• Push• Pull• Networking• Transactions• All citizens• Specificclients• Professionalorganizations• Specificgeographicregions• Facebook• Twitter• Blogs• Wikis• Podcasts• FourSquare• Pinterest• Tumblr• OpenInnovationplatformMeasuresand metrics• Quantitative• QualitativeBe toolagnostic!Thank you!@inesmergel