Post by: Kim Stephens
Even though the Boston Marathon 2013 bombing event happened less than 24 hours ago at the time of writing, there are already numerous accounts of the role social media played during the horrific aftermath. Here are four great articles:
- “Social Media Shapes Boston Bombing Response” by Dan Gilgoff and Jane J. Lee of National Geographic News.
- “Social Media and the Boston Marathon Bombings” by Timo Luge
- “Social Media, a Blessing and a Curse…the Boston Marathon aftermath” by Patrice Cloutier and
- “Self-Organizated Crisis Response to #BostonMarathon Attack” by Patrick Meier.
In an effort not to repeat the good work done by these individuals, I would like to focus on the use of social networks, particularly Twitter, by the Boston Police Department. I have three main observations, however, I’m sure there are many lessons that can, and most likely will, be teased out of this event.
1. Valuable time does not have to be spent word-smithing updates to social networks; it is more important to get the message out the door as quickly as possible and to make sure your point is clearly understood.
This specific Tweet was ReTweeted (or repeated) almost 8,000 times. Providing straightforward information is especially important if your organization is countering misinformation such as this:
This NY Post update was regarded quite skeptically by the public as evidenced by the number of times is was repeated, only 1,700. Although that seems like a large amount, the difference in the number of ReTweets between this update and the Tweet from BPD is telling: people were leery of the information. In fact, many people challenged the Post by directing messages to them questioning the content. After it was determined that the information was false, some urged them to issue a retraction.
2. In a fast moving situation, it isn’t that difficult to understand how incomplete or incorrect content can get posted. However, if that does happen, it may be necessary to repeat the correction.
This content was picked up by news organizations, such as Reuters, and the “not certain” was scrubbed out in the process. The Reuters post was ReTweeted by 8,000 of their followers. It was also repeated on broadcast television stations as well.
Boston PD corrected the information in two Tweets:
Commissioner Davis, “The preliminary investigation indicates JFK incident may not have been an explosion. It may have been a fire."—
Boston Police Dept. (@Boston_Police) April 15, 2013
3. Situational awareness information can often be found from the social accounts of other city agencies or organizations.
Fire in building is out, appears to have started in the mechanical room of new building. All staff and visitors are accounted for and safe.—
JFK Library (@JFKLibrary) April 15, 2013
Interestingly, the JFK Library posted the all-clear status of the building, but BPD still repeated the possibility of a third incident at the library a full thirty minutes later. However, although thirty minutes seems like a long time during the height of an incident response, in the larger scheme of things, they corrected the information very quickly.
I’m sure in the coming weeks the #SMEM community will find even more lessons and observations, I look forward to learning more about how information was provided to the public and how social networks were monitored during the event. Let me know your thoughts.
- Boston Marathon: With no phones, text and social media help get out updates (cbsnews.com)
- Boston Marathon bombings: How tech is helping (venturebeat.com)
- Boston Marathon Bombings -My Thoughts (jessiemarie19.wordpress.com)
- Boston Marathon Bombing (isaacloo.wordpress.com)
- Boston Marathon Bombing Shocks Agencies; Marketers (adage.com)
- Explosions Rock Boston Marathon (wired.com)