Tag Archives: Online Communities

The Work of Disaster Reporting in the Age of Digital Distortion

Post by: Kim Stephens

18_21_07_900_fileAcademics from IBM Research Labs in India; Indraprastha Institute for Information Technology, Delhi, India; and the University of Maryland, Baltimore  County collaborated on an article titled: Faking Sandy: Characterizing and Identifying Fake Images on Twitter during Hurricane Sandy.” This article is interesting in light of the events in Boston and the debate about the veracity of content on social media. Although there hasn’t been time to do complete quantitative data analyses of the Marathon bombing social media feeds, this research adds to the increasing collection of academic studies that can help us better understand how misinformation is distributed on social platforms, specifically Twitter, and how  it can be easily and quickly identified as false.

Abstract:

In today’s world, online social media plays a vital role during real world events, especially crisis events. There are both positive and negative effects of social media coverage of events, it can be used by authorities for effective disaster management or by malicious entities to spread rumors and fake news.

The aim of this paper, is to highlight the role of Twitter, during Hurricane Sandy (2012) to spread fake images about the disaster. We identified 10,350 unique tweets containing fake images that were circulated on Twitter, during Hurricane Sandy. We performed a characterization analysis, to understand the temporal, social reputation and influence patterns for the spread of fake images. Eighty-six percent of tweets spreading the fake images were retweets, hence very few were original tweets. Our results showed that top thirty users out of 10,215 users (0.3%) resulted in 90% of the retweets of fake images; also network links such as follower relationships of Twitter, contributed very less (only 11%) to the spread of these fake photos URLs. Next, we used classification models, to distinguish fake images from real images of Hurricane Sandy. Best results were obtained from Decision Tree classifier, we got 97% accuracy in predicting fake images from real. Also, tweet based features were very effective in distinguishing fake images tweets from real, while the performance of user based features was very poor. Our results, showed that, automated techniques can be used in identifying real images from fake images posted on Twitter.

The last sentence is the most important: “Our results, showed that, automated techniques can be used in identifying real images from fake images posted on Twitter.” Hopefully, those automated approaches will be available to use quickly and intuitively without needing to know how to write an algorithm on the fly. There are people working with that goal in mind. See this great post “Automatically Extracting Disaster-Relevant Information from Social Media” by Patrick Meier–where he describes his efforts  “to develop open source and freely available next generation humanitarian technologies to better manage Big (Crisis) Data.” A software solution is on the horizon.

Why do people post false information? That interesting psychological question was not addressed in this study. Maybe people think an image of a shark swimming the street is funny; maybe they are out for a minute or more of fame.  I, for one, am increasingly leery to ReTweet any photo when an event is unfolding unless I see it on several sources (e.g. on Twitter and also streamed live from a “traditional” local news station). Tell me, how comfortable do you have to be with a source before you hit “ReTweet?”

I Don’t Have Time! Facebook “How-to” Resource

Post by: Kim Stephens

Every time I talk with public employees about social media the one complaint I hear is how limited they are in terms of resources. The first problem with limited resources is that people are unable to invest the time required into learning how to use social tools–even though they do (or might) believe they are important. I recently called a fire department to talk to their social media “coordinator.” The  chief answered the phone and he said,

“That would be me. I’ve only been in this job for a month and I’ve been told I’m also the administrator of the Facebook page.” Then he added with zero enthusiasm, “Great.”

Taking on this responsibility can be daunting. I understand. This is why quite a few public sector Facebook pages look a little bit like ghost towns–especially during the summer months when the one person who actually enjoys updating the page is on leave. Help, however, is available. Facebook has produced a great resource for public employees: “Building your presence with Facebook pages: A Guide for Governments.” (Download the 10 pages here: Facebook Guide for Governments).

This attractive guide provides pictures and key points to users on exactly how to:

  • Set your strategy
  • Create your page
  • Develop your posting plan, including:
    • Finding your voice
    • Creating a conversation
    • Offering a rich experience
    • Sharing exclusive content
  • Grow your Audience
  • Measure and Refine
  • Resource Links (all internal Facebook links)
  • Top 5 Tips (These tips, by the way, are great. I love #1 “Don’t be boring!”) the other four:
    • Offer historical content
    • Thank supporters and engagers
    • Be timely
    • Post bi-lingual content

Of course this content really only applies to the emergency management and first response community during the preparedness phase: there is no mention of what happens to social networks during a crisis. However, this is a great start for organizations looking for “how to’s”.

Take the 10-20 minutes to read this! It could help your page go from ghost town to boom town!

What’s in Your Tweet?

Post by: Kim Stephens

The thumbnail for The Station. Used as their d...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The Social Media and Emergency Management chat devolved a little bit today into a debate about what to include in a tweet, specifically hyperlinks, and whether or not it was good practice to cross post between Facebook and Twitter.  The conversation reminded me of a blog post from last year entitled: All in a tweet. The author [no name is given] notes his observations about official twitter accounts during the January 2011 record flooding event  in Australia, as well as people’s reactions and interactions with those accounts. I wrote about this last year,  but wanted to revisit this story since it provides some great lessons on how to design tweets in order to ensure your customers and/or citizens are not only happy, but actually able to understand the information you are trying to convey.

The author describes one particular “channel” on twitter, the TransLink SEQ–the twitter feed for the rail and bus service, and states that they were “an example of how not to use [twitter].” His biggest complaint was how TransLink stated very generic information in their tweets and expected people to go their website for details. The content of this tweet is illustrative: “Services are running throughout this afternoon. Expect delays & some cancellations. Check the website for service status info.” However, as the author notes, this presented numerous problems, especially since most of the users were accessing the information on mobile devices, literally standing on train platforms:

  1. Going to a website on a smartphone doesn’t always work, especially if the user doesn’t have a great signal;
  2. Reading a website on a smartphone is not always easy, especially if the site is not optimized for mobile and;
  3. Since so many users were directed to the website, it eventually crashed.

Another aspect of the story is simply Translink’s non-responsiveness to users.

There was every indication that they were explicitly refusing to respond to direct messages or any sort of feedback.  “The height of their lunacy on Tuesday was when many, many people were asking if the rumour that public transport was halting at 2PM was true, and the *only* response in return was to keep repeating that they had a [web]page with service statuses on it. At no point did they respond to the simple question “are services halting at 2pm.” The only rebuttal of that rumour came from the QPS Media service [Queensland Police Service].

A direct consequence of their inability or lack of desire to tweet out the information was huge spikes in the number of calls to their call center.”Our call centre is receiving a high number of calls, causing delays in answering. Check website for info to help us manage the call volume.”

Two interesting points from the author:

  • relevant information-rich messages are spread further and live longer than information-poor messages;
  • the service is inherently a two-way information flow, and questions and criticisms that flow back are indicators of errors or inadequacies in the outgoing flow.

In sum, organizations that are using social networks during a crisis really need to consider in their content strategy not only what the message is, but what kinds of devices people are using to access that content. Let me know if that is a consideration you have taken into account.

10 Ways for Emergency Managers to Boost Facebook Content

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Post by: Kim Stephens

Oneforty.com recently posted 25 ideas to liven up the content you share on your Facebook page. This inspired me to write a list specifically for the emergency management community because whenever I present to groups about SMEM one of the most often asked question is “How do we get more people to visit our page?”. Coming up with interesting content day after day or even week after week can become exhausting and can also cause burn out on the part of the person responsible for writing that content. I have discussed this before in other blog posts but I think it is worth revisiting.

Here’s a mix of ideas from the OneForty list (which are in quotes) and my own.

1. “Don’t automate Twitter updates to your Facebook page. They are different platforms, so treat them differently.”

This tip is true for preparedness information but probably doesn’t apply to emergency information. For example,  if there is a tree down on a street and you’d like the information to get out quickly to everyone, you might post something like this:

However, what you don’t want post non-critical information in this same manner because it really can limit the amount of interactivity you get on your site.

2. Don’t only post the weather.

Services that automatically post weather updates to your facebook and twitter accounts make it much easier to post that information in a timely manner, and also takes the burden off of organizations that are short staffed. However, what happens is that you loose any opportunity for engagement with your community. Keep in mind that you are on a “social” platform. Imagine if you were at a party and the person sitting next to you only spouted weather data–you’d probably find a way to move away.

3. “Reply to users’ comments and “likes” on your statuses. The more engagement, the more likely your post will make it to your community members’ newsfeed.”

4. “Have a guest host. Have a celebrity, influencer or company executive take over your Facebook page for an hour or a day to interact directly with community members and answer their questions.”

Instead of “company executive” it might be interesting to have local celebrities take over the page, even it that’s the HighSchool football coach talking about how to keep hydrated in the hot weather. All communities have local celebrities that could be tapped. Plan for someone different once per month and then advertise that they will be available to chat on your page during specific times.

5. “Ask for your community’s opinion – Talk about a question that was asked somewhere else (blog, Twitter, etc) and pose that to your Facebook audience.”

Being open to hear what the community has to say is really what these social media platforms are all about. Asking questions, is a great way to open the door for true dialog.

6. Use lots of photos.

There are many ways to incorporate photos into your stream that allow for people to interact with your page. People really like pictures, particularly of their kids or pets. Ask for members of your community to submit pictures that reflect your preparedness campaign for the month. For example, if your organization is trying to relay info about how to stay cool in the heat, then people could submit pics of dogs playing in the water or their kids in the sprinkler. (This is my dog!) Turn this into a contest for another layer of interactivity.

Other suggestions from OneForty included hosting a caption contest or posting a mystery photo and having people guess who it is. (It might not be wise, however, to put the mayor up there and ask people to guess who it is. He or she might not be too happy if no one knows.)

7. “Ask for your community’s ideas – Ask them what they would like to see in your next blog post, ebook, webinar, advertisement, event etc.”

8. “Ask a hypothetical question. (Example: “Would you rather ____?” “If you could _____”)”

9. Don’t be afraid to be funny.

10. Consider combining the Facebook pages of your community.

At a recent conference for emergency managers for Universities, one of the audience members asked me what I thought about not having separate Facebook page for the Campus Emergency Management. I actually think this is a probably wise, particularly for smaller communities, including smaller towns or counties. All community information could be included on one facebook page: police, fire department, mayor’s office, emergency management, etc.  In truth, local governments are trying to do more with less therefore, combining efforts into one Facebook page is probably prudent. Of course, I understand that that means cooperation will have to occur between and among different agencies, which isn’t always easy. However, if a crisis were to occur, it would be helpful to have this kind of combined effort already in place.

Please add any ideas I might have missed.

Emergency Management Agencies Don’t Use Facebook Effectively

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Post by: Kim Stephens

An article entitled “Hospitals not Leveraging Facebook” discussed a study by Verasoni Worldwide which analyzed whether or not  the platform was used effectively by hospitals to engage their patients and the surrounding communities. They measured the following: how often hospitals posted to the walls, whether or not there were discussions on the discussion board, engagement opportunities like games and photo sharing, and links to other social media such as twitter accounts, etc. They looked at 120 hospitals.

This got me thinking about how emergency management organizations’ social media presence might be measured. I did a quick analysis of 34 randomly selected EMAs’ facebook accounts (8 states and 26 locals) and I included similar criteria as the hospital study cited above. I looked at the following:

  • number of fans
  • how often they posted to the wall
  • are pictures in the postings or on the page
  • are there  engagement opportunities (other than surveys)–e.g. games, apps
  • is other social media integrated
  • is posting to the wall allowed (which, by the way, is not recommended)
  • are comments allowed
  • do they respond to comments
  • are there any comments from the public
  • is there a policy statement posted regarding about public use of the page?

Community engagement is important for many reasons. At a minimum, it is identified as a priority in the National Target Capabilities List. The list was developed by the Department of Homeland Security after 911 in an effort to “organize and synchronize national efforts to strengthen preparedness”. It identifies and describes “the collective national capabilities required to prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies.” Community preparedness/participation is listed as a top priority. Social Media provide the perfect avenue for this type of engagement; but it appears based on my quick analysis, that even those using the medium are not taking full advantage of the technology and therefore, the opportunity.

What I found:

Number of Fans: There is a difference between how the states vs the locals are using facebook as a tool for engagement.  It might be obvious that states would have a little more robust presence since they probably have more resources, including, for example, personnel. Indeed, the States average number of fans was 1941, and the local EMAs number of fans was only 630. After excluding the two outlier numbers– NY’s EMA with 4161 fans and another local EMA with only 4– the local EMA average number of fans drops to 505–which actually isn’t too shabby.

How often they post to the wall: Daily posting to the wall is not the norm, only 23% of local communities post daily and only 12.5% of the states post daily. One of the 8 states only posted sporadically, and 10% of the locals posted sporadically. Most of the EMAs (state and local) post new content at least weekly.

Pictures: The states tended to do a better job posting pictures (which is important because it livens up your page and people do like them). One-hundred percent of the states had good images on their pages but only 53% of the locals had pictures at all.

Games/Apps: Only one state had a “game”, and it was “vote for the top video”, which can’t really qualify for a game per se, but since it required participation by the viewer, I counted it. Only 1 local EMA, NY,  had a “game”. Two other locals had surveys about how people would like to receive emergency notifications.

Other Social Media integrated: 24% of the states and 20% of the locals had integrated any other kind of social media into their facebook page. Most of the integration included a YouTube video, rarely did it include a linked twitter account.

Comments: Comments are a good way to measure engagement. Every single state and locality allowed comments and 74% of the locals and 100% of the states had comments on the page. However, when looking at whether the comments were answered the numbers drop a bit. Only 30% of the locals addressed comments on their page, and 50% of the states addressed comments. Some of the comments that went unanswered were direct questions–e.g. “How do I get assistance for damage caused by the storm?” or “How do I apply for a job at your EMA?”.

Allow Posting to the Wall: A full 50% of the states and 34% of the locals allowed people to post to the wall. In my opinion, this is not a good thing. Citizen postings clutter up your message and can sometimes contain unacceptable content. For example, on two of the 34 pages “Uncle Bob” posted a link on the wall to his online store for “go-bags”. Really? In my opinion, you don’t want advertisements like that in the comments, much less on the wall.

Posted Policies: This was a little frustrating to find–only 1 state had policies posted (or 12.5%) and zero locals 0% had any policies posted at all. The info page was almost always used to identify the purpose of an EMA (one EMA had no “info” posted at all) but none of them described what was expected of the user or what kind of content would be removed. I didn’t even find policies stating something along the lines of  “this is not a page that should be used to seek help if you have an emergency.” Nothing. I know that some EMAs do have this type of policy statement posted, but there were no examples of that in my small sample.

Content: Although this wasn’t something I could measure with a yes or no answer,  I did count how many agencies just posted weather forecast: an astonishing 26% of the local EMA facebook pages. This wasn’t just an occasional weather warning, but for some, the content was solely weather forecasts–every single day.

Conclusion

What does all of this mean? Well, for me, it means that we in the emergency management community really need to understand marketing better. In the next couple of days I’ll look at some facebook pages for private companies and analyze what they are doing right and how we can borrow from their strategies. Surely we can do a better job than just posting the weather.

If you want access to the raw data, let me know.

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SMEM chat: Discussing our “Cloud based Collective”

Post by Kim Stephens

This week the Social Media and Emergency Management chat focused internally, asking and answering the question that most groups get to at some point in their existence: what are doing here? As the first ever SMEM camp is set to occur this week in Alexandria, Virginia in conjunction with the NEMA conference, and subsequent camps are scheduled for this year, some of us thought it might be important to put together a community engagement framework. This framework could be designed as a guide for our all-volunteer effort, including how we will work together, our goals, and our code of conduct–if that is indeed needed.

For background info, the framework states the SMEM goals in broad terms:

  • to document and share social media best practices within the practitioner field of EM
  • to help frame policy development, operations and other augmentations of support within domestic crisis management systems
  • to accelerate the incorporation and engagement with social media and accessible technologies within the broader emergency management community.

“The community will do this by establishing SMEM collaboration processes, including ad-hoc small workgroups to support coordination efforts, recruitment into the community, monthly conference calls, bi-annual in person meeting and reaching out to garner support and augment existing efforts. The code of conduct is simply along the lines of play-nice in the sandbox, give credit where credit is due, etc.

The chat itself started with a question about goals and expectations for the upcoming SMEM camp. Responses included:

  • solidify relationships since we will be meeting in person for the first time
  • create further consensus on policy, tactics practices
  • teach new folks who aren’t using SMEM yet; address issues and concerns and advance the dialog on what we’ve learned–push the limit

We posed the question: Is our SMEM group was just a bunch of folks that communicate via a hashtag or a true initiative? The answer, was yes, we are an initiative. But two interesting questions were raised from the group:

  1. “how do we deal with people who want to monetize “it”: meaning both the tag and the initiative. This is a tricky question. We have a lot of people in our group that sell products and services to the emergency management community. It’s a difficult line to walk for those folks, in my opinion, because it’s important to be a part of the conversation, but it also important not to look like you are selling your service all the time. But I think most people in this category that I’ve encountered on the SMEM tag do a great job in this regard.
  2. How do we have genuine conversations on the SMEM tag? Some people complained that the SMEM hashtag on twitter has become an echo chamber and not really a place for good dialog. As an observation and an aside, I think this might be due to the popularity of the tag and I equate it to being at a loud party–sometimes you have to leave the room to have an in-depth conversation. This is why I think these chats are so important.

We discussed the framework itself, outlined above. Several interesting points were made:

  • it will be hard to enforce “rules” with such an open group;
  • Are we diluting sub-committee development for SMEM in other strong associates?
  • Should we have training standards for those of us who do presentations on SMEM?

Some other brainstorming led people to believe maybe we should do following:

  • develop more formalized regional working groups
  • have more in-depth topic specific skype chats
  • drive national conference agendas.
  • influence or impact formal emergency response procedures and policies (e.g. NIMS) to consider social media and crowdsourcing implications.
  • need to demonstrate how SM should be integrated into all aspects of EM not just response and how it benefits ops and planning people not just PIOs
  • Goal: write business case for SM.
  • We need to think about more than just SM but all data streams.

We talk often about how difficult is to change the EM culture for the inclusion of SM. We discussed how traditional training has not yet incorporated SM, and until it does, not much will change. This led to the best quote of the day by FireTracker:

In a way SMEM is like the fire service. You are going to have to carry it into the future kicking and screaming.”

This is a long summary, but  James Hamilton was able to sum up the entire discussion in one tweet when someone asked–“hey, what’d I miss?” He also riffed on my processed affection for this group:

We are an initiative, people need to be nice, don’t pollute the hashtag, Kim loves everyone, next up DC.”

Using Corporate Social Media Lessons for Emergency Management “Marketing”

Post by: Kim Stephens

What lessons can we borrow from corporate use of social media? Following information about social media often gets you 10 articles about corporate use to every 1 about the public sector. I think there are some interesting lessons we can glean from the private sector, but there are unique aspects in the use of social media in emergency management.

Using social media in the preparedness phase seems very similar to how the corporate world participates in social technologies –to sell a product and develop brand identity (see Diet Coke’s facebook page with 773,805 fans). By contrast, we have to work very very hard to “sell” preparedness information. However, during the response phase people line up around the virtual corner to “buy” our product because information becomes a precious commodity. Here are a few concepts, however, that I think we can borrow to help make us more successful.

1. Create a sense of community–be personal

In terms of gaining an audience, it’s the preparedness phase that’s the most difficult. So how can we improve our presence during this phase?  Corporations are beginning to understand that social media, at it’s best, creates a community.  A recent article by Chris Syme, “Twitter Rules, Are they Changing?” also describes social media as evolving into community building and how people’s expectations of content has changed. This quote is particularly salient: “Marketers who lack sophistication are still functioning like megaphones. This was okay when Twitter was in its infancy, much like the crying baby who needs to be changed, but now that sort of blatant broadcasting is offensive to most Twitter communities. Scheduling tweets that are identical day after day asking us to come in to your flooring store is not a good use of Twitter.”

The same could be said for the emergency management community: scheduling tweets that say: “change the batteries in your smoke detector” day after day, also stand the risk of being dismissed or ignored. What’s missing is any personal connection. A scheduled tweet that is the exact same message on the facebook page leaves no room for real dialog, and its difficult to be personal without ever having a conversation.

2. Create goals and objectives for your social media presence that include network building.

In an article by Amber Naslund   “9 Ways to Build a Twitter Community With Substance”, she says

“Remember: Twitter is just the medium. These same principles apply across many things, online and off. It all–always–comes down to your honest intent to build a network of people to talk to, to learn from, to share with. ALL of this depends on your desire to use Twitter that way, and not just to amass a collection of people that you can pimp your junk to.”

Maybe this is what makes the emergency management community uncomfortable–although we don’t really have “junk to pimp” we still have a preparedness message to sell. People who use social media are not just passive consumers of information. In order to really gain an audience we have to ask:

  • Are we really ready to talk to people not at them?
  • Are we ready to learn from citizens, not expect them to only learn from us?
  • Are we ready to share information open and honestly, including our mistakes?

3. Create a community that leverages the “wisdom of the crowd”.

People expect to learn from EACH OTHER on social media platforms. So, are we ready to allow for a free flow of information in our own managed online communities that allows people to exchange information?

The Arkansas Game and Fish Facebook page is a great example of this concept.  People ask questions and others answer. Q: Is the fishing good? A: been fishing really hard but ain’t really getting any bites… The “official” on the page also answers the question, but it’s the answers from the other citizens that make the question worth asking. (And I also got to use the words “ain’t and wisdom in the same paragraph!)

4. During the Response and Recovery Phases, adjust messaging accordingly; and expect new members to join your virtual community.

The response phase is probably the most dissimilar to corporate brand messaging on social media platforms. For example, broadcast-type messages are usually expected and even desired during a crisis, but, people also still expect to have the opportunity to offer their own point of view on these participatory platforms. Here is my comparison of recommendations for messaging during the preparedness phase versus the response phase. Some of these are based on the experiences and recommendations from the Australian Queensland Police social media manager:

Finally, creating a virtual community will benefit both the EM agency as well as the citizens.

Here’s a tweet from Jeff Philips, whom I follow loyally. “Engagement, for me, is the only viable social media and emergency management strategy.” He mentions “fascinating & wonderful people.” The online community he has created is real.

Corporations are concerned about loyalty because they want you to buy Diet Coke, not Diet Pepsi for the rest of your life. Loyalty in the public sector is almost as important. Creating advocates for your efforts during the preparedness phase is key to your success in the medium during the response and recovery phase. These people can be called upon and will:

  1. help spread your message
  2. provide information/situational awareness
  3. support the recovery and response by showing up when asked, either virtually or physically.

Selling a product and selling a “concept” obviously present different challenges. But if we can apply some of these corporate strategies, it just might help us reach our goal of creating more resilient communities.

Just something to think about.

Related Article

New to Social Media? Here’s the first piece of the puzzle.

Guest Post: Cheryl Bledsoe
Cheryl has 15 years of experience in state and county government. Currently serving as the Emergency Management Division Manager at the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA). Supervise & manage Emergency Operations Center for geographic area serving population center of 424,000.

Social Media Landscape

The world of social media can seem overwhelming to the newcomer.  There are many articles and presentations which tout its importance, but when faced with all of the online possibilities, it can seem easier to simply turn off the computer and avoid making any changes. Here are some simple tips and tools for understanding and observing the very basics of social media:

  • Spend 3-5 minutes per day watching a tutorial video like those available in the “social media pack” at www.commoncraft.com.  Each of these videos are 2-3 minutes in length and will give you a very basic understanding of key terms and concepts.
  • Find 2-3 blogs that you like to read.  Pay attention, not only to the content, but what do you like about what you see.
  • If you have a personal Facebook Fan Page, start paying attention to the businesses in your local community.  How do they promote themselves?  How often do they post something new about their business?  And what seems to be popular locally?
  • If you don’t have a Twitter account, venture onto www.TweetGrid.com and do a couple of keyword searches for some of the items in the news.  Watch how people talk to each other in this medium.  Look for #hashtags and @[name] mentions.  Click on either to learn more about the topic or see who is doing the talking.

The key is to be patient with yourself in learning about social media.  Because it is less than 5 years old, in most cases, there are many people who are still learning the ropes and many who will share their personal experiences in its use.  The challenge is to avoid running and breaking it down into bite-sized puzzle pieces so that you and your agency can use it effectively to share the information that needs to be heard.

 

Tips and Tools of the Social Media Trade, by Hal Grieb

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Guest Blogger: Hal Grieb, Social Media Expert (and emergency manager) from Plano, Texas

Some call me an expert on social media and emergency management, I just call myself a heavy user. I love using new technology when it can help augment current tools in helping people stay safe especially when the tools are free! I have been asked by many how I automated emergency alerts on Twitter and Facebook Fan Pages. It’s not too hard and again, it’s free!

Here are the steps:

  1. Create a “secret” www.Twittermail.com email address that only you will know. With Twittermail.com, anything you send to the secret email will be posted to twitter, no matter what the length (it creates a link to messages longer than 140 characters), or who sent it (hence why it’s secret).
  2. Create a separate iNWS account (http://inws.wrh.noaa.gov/) for your Twittermail.com email address, you will need to contact the iNWS team to get them to manually approve the email address.
  3. If you have a Facebook Page you will need to add the Smart Twitter Application (http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=290374557459&from=313122108379) to your fan page. Smart Twitter only pulls certain types of tweets leaving out @replys, or ReTweets “RT”. That’s it.
  4. Test it out. Send an email to your secret Twittermail email, it should auto post to twitter then be pulled to your Facebook without you doing anything else.
  5. Monitor to ensure the system is working.

*If you don’t like iNWS or have a different automated email alert, you still use the exact same process.  Just be sure whatever automated message service you use, when it’s posted automatically, that it still makes sense. Some email alerts may read weird and not do any good to your users.

Additional PIO Use for Twittermail

Another great way to use the twittermail.com email is to give it to your PIOs; they can then email any info, at any length they want or need to it, and it will be posted to Twitter then Facebook instantly. They don’t even need to have an account! Just be sure you have some sort of SOP or policy and address it in your communications plan.

I also posted this on the https://communities.firstresponder.gov/web/make-america-safer-through-social-media/blog. You can find a lot more info on emergency management and social media there as well!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me either on twitter or through the  “Make America Safer though Social Media” site.

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Emergency Managers new to social media can look to these resources for help.

Post by: Kim Stephens

I was the guest on the Emergency Management Forum this week and one of the questions posed to the participants was whether there is a need for more training on social media for emergency managers. A tally of the online replies indicated that almost everyone indicated yes.

During the presentation, I mentioned that a good example of effective use of new media is the Center for Social Media website, done by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. It is similar to the site of the Center for Disease Control, which also offers guidelines and best practices; but the IACP resource seems to have more information relevant to local emergency management agencies. Researchers might find the Directory tab interesting. Law enforcement agencies engaged in social media are listed and “the directory contains basic agency demographics, contact information, and links to the agency’s social media sites. You can search the directory by agency name, state, agency type, agency size, and/or platform.” Each of the platforms is hyperlinked, which makes viewing their activities quite easy. 

The site offers some very basic overview fact sheets, such as “What is Twitter?” Additionally, they have some  in-depth Concepts and Issues Papers that accompany their model policies. One issue paper, for example, includes a discussion on “The First Amendment and the Public Employee“.

Another interesting source for information is the Department of Homeland Security’s new “First Responder Communities of Practice“.  The site isn’t specifically focused only on social media, but does have the opportunity for responders to share information. From their about page:

“FirstResponder Communities of Practice is a network of vetted, active and retired first responders, emergency response professionals and Federal, State, local, or Tribal Homeland Security officials sponsored by the U. S. Department of Homeland Security… Registered members of this professional network share information, ideas, lessons learned and best practices, enabling them to more efficiently and effectively prepare for all hazards.  Members use tools such as wikis, blogs and RSS feeds to collaborate online on the creation and management of critical planning, training, and other initiatives.  Through information sharing and active participation in community workspaces, members are able to leverage each other’s experiences to meet mission objectives. FirstResponder Communities of Practice not only offers information repositories and content creation tools, but also provides networking capabilities for practitioners across the country to connect with one another in a trusted, online environment.”

For more resources, see our own bibliography which has an extensive list of resources including samples of  local agency social media policies.

A few other sources worth noting:

I’m sure other great sources will become available as more and more people try to understand how to operate in this medium. Keep checking back with our bibliography, we try to keep it current. Of course, please let us know if we missed a great source.