Post by: Kim Stephens
Yes, I know that the time of writing this post is Pre-Super Bowl, but this Mashable article about the social media command center organized for the event has me thinking. I found four key lessons the emergency management community can take away from their effort, before the event has even happened.
What can we learn?
1. Understand that there will be a huge amount of social media interaction. The Super Bowl is an event that draws eyes from all around the world, and if history can predict the future, then they know people will be using social networks to communicate everything from how they feel about the teams, to how they feel about the parking. In an interview with CNN for a follow on article to the Mashable one mentioned above, the company hired to monitor social networks stated:
“Social media is just how people interact now,” said Taulbee Jackson, CEO of Raidious, the digital marketing agency that the Super Bowl’s host committee tapped to manage the communications hub. “We felt it was critical to have some horsepower behind that aspect of the Super Bowl here, versus what you might have seen from other Super Bowls.”
How does this relate to the EM community? A big disaster will draw just as much, if not more, attention from the world and social media will clearly play a role in the way people communicate about every aspect of the response and recovery effort.
2. Use computer tools to help monitor. According to the various articles written on the Super Bowl effort they will be using “advanced search tool and analytics…to identify fans in need of help by indexing key words and phrases”. If you are responsible for monitoring social media for your organization, do you have these kinds of tools ready to go? Have you gotten a chance to practice using them with a large volume of information? If you haven’t gotten a chance to exercise your social media monitoring efforts one idea might be to follow the Super Bowl tweets and test your skills. Read this article “11 Minutes” by Cheryl Bledsoe about how overwhelming monitoring by hand can be.
3. Plan for the necessary infrastructure. The social media “war room” planned for the Super Bowl is being outfitted with “a mile of Ethernet cable and more than 150 square feet of networked screen space”. I understand that almost no local EOCs (except mabye NYC) will have this capability, but is there a company in your community, or maybe a University, that does?
4. Plan for a big monitoring team, even if you have computer analytics. For an event with 150,000 attendees, the Super Bowl social media communications team will consists of more than 20 people manning the center for 15 hours per day. How many people are in your community? How many people do you have “at the ready” to help you monitor social media? I’m guessing it’s not 20. How do you fill in the gap? There are groups such as Humanity Road, the Standby Task Force and the Virtual Operations Support Team or (VOST) that can help. These groups consist of people experienced in monitoring social media during crises and can be given specific tasks or objectives to accomplish. They can also do this work remotely (there’s really no reason people all have to be in the same room). This also distributes the necessary screen space and infrastructure which could also potentially alleviate the need for a communications “war room”. You could also set up your own VOST. Does your local University offer a communications major? If so, I’m guessing they have students that are being trained in social media communications that would be more than willing to help. The trick is to set up this relationship now, before you have a crisis.
People are talking about the Super Bowl’s social media war room because they see it as a precedent for future sporting or major events. We in the emergency management community should take notice as well. After all, major disasters really are the equivalent of Super Bowls in our world. Are you ready?