Post by: Kim Stephens
The year of 2011, for me, is the year the Queensland Police Service in Australia or QPSMedia (responsible for all of the State’s public safety communications) demonstrated to the world the effectiveness of using social networks to inform and interact with the public during a large-scale disaster. Their efforts came to the world’s attention after extensive flooding in January. Numerous articles (see this scribd presentation by me) and even scholarly studies have accessed their social media activities during that event, some of the most important:
- Queensland Police Service: Disaster Management and Social Media–a case study;
- Axel Bruns. “Towards Distributed Participation: Lessons from Wikileaks and the Queensland Floods“
But what makes a public agency’s social media presence a successful example worth mimicking? Is it a measure of how often they tweet, post, and blog (e.g. how much information is pushed)? Is it a measure of followers and “likes”? Is it how many comments they receive on any given blog or facebook post?
I think the better questions to ask of public safety organizations are: Did the activity result in behavioral changes that ultimately saved lives; did it change people’s trust in the government itself (and therefore increase the trust in the information being disseminated); and/or did it give the government entity an ability to create a channel of common discourse, or engagement (perhaps which would facilitate the previous points). The last proposition was put forward by Colman and Blumler in their book “The Internet and Democratic Citizenship: Theory, Practice and Policy” and examined in context of the Queensland flood event by Dr. Axel Bruns in his article “Towards Distributed Participation listed above.
Dr. Bruns outlines how QPSMedia did not disseminate information in a one-way flow but rather tailored their media campaign to match the way the community wanted to obtain information based on feedback received throughout the event. He cites several examples, such as how they quickly adopted the twitter hashtag used by most citizens and stopped automatically posting their twitter messages to their Facebook page: problems associated with this albeit easier way to post were pointed out by their citizens and they adjusted accordingly. QPSMedia also reposted information from citizens on the ground and made a point to both ask and answer questions via both platforms. Dr. Bruns sums up why this was so important:
Social media provided one such channel of common discourse between Queensland citizens and their government institutions, and – with the permission and indeed with the active help and support of citizens – the various accounts of these institutions were able to place themselves in key positions within the social networks emerging around the flood crisis, but only because they chose to engage and respond rather than simply push out information.
On another note, QPSMedia’s Facebook page is just SO cool. They have not rested on their laurels and continue to make improvements that truely make them a world-class act to follow. For example, they recently added a new tab called QLDAlert, still in Beta and it is also a stand-alone website. This tab contains the live twitter feeds of the following organizations:
- Bureau of Meteorolgy Queensland Warnings
- Road Conditions (Queensland Government Traffic and information)
- SEQ Public Transport Info
- Queensland Rail
- Queensland State Emergency Services Information
- Australian Broadcast Company Radio
- ABC News Queensland
- Brisbane City Council
QPSMedia also continues to engage their citizens on a daily basis via their online presence, posting to the Facebook page multiple times per day and doing things such as hosting Live chats: today’s event “Domestic and Family Violence”. These chats are also archived right there on the site.
Visit them and dig around a little. They have examples to follow on every screen.
Others on my December List:
See also Patrice Cloutier’s James Garrow’s lists of the best of SMEM.
Pingback: The December List from iDisaster 2.0 | #UASI
thanks for the kind words. You might be interested to know that we’ve now also published a detailed study of #qldfloods and @QPSMedia in the Queensland floods on our project Website, at
(Definitely Bruns, not Burns. 😉
Thanks for the comment. I apologize for the misspelling of your name–I corrected that! I have seen the “Mapping Online Publics” article as well. That is a very good report. Not too many people are studying social media quantitatively, so thank you for your work.