Tag Archives: Tweetdeck

Should you Cross-Post to Social Platforms? What does FEMA do?

Post by: Kim Stephens
twitter logo map 09

twitter logo map 09 (Photo credit: The Next Web)

The other day in a SMEMchat we debated (briefly) the pros and cons of cross-posting to Twitter and Facebook, particularly the practice of posting to Twitter from Facebook–not necessarily dual  posting from a third party application such as Hootesuite or Tweetdeck. I recalled reading that this was problematic in a scholarly article by  Axel Bruns, et al (see page 12). They were writing about QPS Media (yes, I know everyone is a little tired of me bringing them up) during the flood event of January, 2011. They stated in the report:

Indeed, the social media use of several of these organisations underwent a rapid development process as the emergency unfolded; this is best illustrated using the example of the official Facebook and Twitter accounts of the Queensland Police Service (QPS). Initially, QPS had mainly shared its own advisories and news updates through its Facebook page, with messages automatically crossposted to Twitter. This was problematic for a number of reasons, however: first, the lower 140 character limit for messages on Twitter, compared to Facebook, caused several of these crossposted messages to be truncated and thus unusable (especially when embedded hyperlinks were broken in the process); additionally, this also meant that users on Twitter may first have had to navigate from Twitter to Facebook, to see the full, original message, and then to follow any embedded links to their eventual destination; and even this may only have been possible for users who already had Facebook accounts.

Further, for reasons of site design, Facebook messages are more difficult to share with a larger number of users than those on Twitter, where a simple click of the ‘retweet’ button passes on an incoming message to all of one’s followers; and similarly, ongoing conversations are more difficult to manage on Facebook – where the amount of commentary attached to each of the QPS’s posts was rapidly swamping important information – than on Twitter; indeed, Facebook knows no equivalent to the concept of the hashtag, which allows a large number of users to conduct an open, ongoing, public discussion centred around a common topic. These shortcomings were quickly (and courteously) explained to the QPS media staff by a number of vocal Twitter users, and the QPS used its @QPSmedia Twitter account prominently throughout the rest of the flood crisis.

I have also heard Shayne Adamski, the Senior Manager of Digital Engagement Public Affairs Division, Office of External Affairs at FEMA speak several times and mention that they too craft messages specifically for each platform, for a myriad of reasons. He graciously agreed to an interview and in a follow-up email he stated:

“When it comes to using social media sites to communicate and have a conversation, we don’t write one message and then post it on both Twitter and Facebook.  We write our message for the platform we’re using.  On Twitter, we use any appropriate hashtags that will add value to the message and when appropriate, we cross-link to other Twitter accounts.  On Facebook, because the character limit is much higher than 140 characters, we take the time and write a longer message to take advantage of the fact that we have more room to work with, and when appropriate, we cross-link to other Facebook accounts.  We will also RT messages on Twitter and Share content on Facebook, so it appears in our respective timelines.”

Shayne provided  examples of messages  tailored to the respective platforms. The first pic is of a post to their Facebook account about severe weather. The second is the same day, with the same concept, but the post looks completely different on Twitter.

Shayne went on to state:

“Obviously, during a response, your time is even more limited compared to steady state and you’re being pulled in multiple directions, but there is value in writing the message for the platform you’re using.  And just like anything, practice makes perfect, so utilize the time you have during steady state to practice and get in the habit of writing for the platform.”

From my perspective, I think it is important to also note that different social platforms have different audiences, and the ability to tailor content to target these different groups is one of the great advantages of using social tools. Furthermore, Twitter and Facebook have really different “languages.” I’ve seen organizations post content on their Facebook page so that it reads well on Twitter, including hashtags and acronyms. For those people who are not also on Twitter, this cannot only be #confusing, but also extremely #annoying. Just because something is easier to do doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do.
Tell me if you think I’m off track here!
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Social Media and the Japan earthquake: What we can learn.

Post by: Kim Stephens

With every disaster the importance of social media and its potential power seems to grow.  Numerous articles have already been written (just 3 days into the event) about the importance of the medium during this particular crisis, so I’d like to just highlight what I have observed so far. This post is particularly for the cynics who say: “I will never use social media.” or “It’s just a fad.” or “It’s just for teenagers.”

1. People are using social media to determine the whereabouts and well-being of their loved ones.

This has proven to be one of the most reliable ways to find information. Why? This tweet from the US State Department says it all: “Telephone lines disrupted; try contacting loved ones.. via social media.” Many stories are showing up in local papers about families doing just that. From news King5.com out of Seattle, the story: Seattle’s Japanese community tries making contact after quake:

Patty Johnson’s son, Aaron, lives in Tokyo with his wife, who is seven months pregnant.
“It’s just worry, worry, worry,” she said. “Is he OK?” The story recounts how after several hours of waiting news comes that their loved one is OK, via facebook.  “Thank God for Facebook,” she said.

From Boise: Social Media Proves Reliable communication in a time of crisis.

Geoff told KTVB he loves the power of social media.  He is excited to be able to connect with media organizations on Twitter for news updates, and also be able to get updates from his dad in Japan on Facebook at the same time.

Carol Dunn, an emergency management professional and twitter friend, suggested that social media/tech volunteers should be organized to go into nursing homes that have a large population of Japanese americans. These volunteers could bring their laptop computers and facilitate communications via social networks for residence so they can gain information about friends and family. She contacted a Japanese american group on twitter and is currently looking into how to make this happen (maybe with high school volunteers, or crisis commons type volunteers). This is a brand-new idea, but one I think worth pursuing.

2. Social Media are often the best way to gain situational awareness

Social media platforms have become the best way to get information from the scene, and from response organizations (domestic and international). 

As one example, someone on twitter pointed to a link of videos from the impacted area–which were amazing. I left the computer for a bit and went to the gym. While watching MSNBC, they went to a correspondent who proudly showed a video “just in” which was the exact same video I’d watched an hour earlier. With regard to response organizations, the US military and US Department of State post constant information to their twitter feeds, by monitoring them you can get the information basically at the same time the media is getting it, and the media doesn’t always report each item, so you have more information than you would otherwise.

So, how do you monitor these sources: Mashable has a good article  HOW TO: Follow the Japan Earthquake Online (mashable.com) which details which hashtags to follow on twitter and has a good list of resources. But with regard to HOW to use twitter, particularly when there are 1200 tweets per minute, that’s a little trickier. If you use an application like Tweetdeck or Hootesuite, the tweets, particularly right after a event happens, go by so fast that you really can’t read them at all. Several power users online including Chris Hall (@thefiretracker2) and Cheryle Bledsoe (@CherylBle) and others made some great suggestions:

  • Use a twitter application that can be slowed down or stopped altogether. As Cheryl said last night:  “throttle issue is important when a hashtag is blowing up. Tweetdeck usually works, but ability to pause tweets is #priceless” How to do this, from Cheryl again: “use www.twitterfall.com and set the speed or pause the stream until you catch up”.
  • Choose a few power users to follow from the impacted area–for example, government agencies, people in the news media, or just people who seems to be tweeting great info (especially if they are tweeting in your language). You can then create a list to follow. In tweetdeck, here a link to how to do that: “How do I create a new Twitter list in Tweetdeck?” List can also be created in twitter itself and other applications have this ability as well.
  • If you are not on twitter at all, you can go to google alerts and use the realtime function. You can either search a term such as earthquake or tsunami or you can search hashtags if you know them, for example #eqjp or #HITsunami. You can pause the stream as well. If you are not a twitter user, this will also point you to other searches you might want to do, because people often include more than one hashtag in their tweets. The realtime function also includes updates from facebook as well.
  • The timeline feature allows you go back in time and there is a handy list of top tweets.
  • Update: another twitter friend @Metalerik told me that you can pause tweetdeck. (I didn’t do my homework.) From Tweetdeck’s support page:

“Pause a column

You can pause the updates in a column by scrolling down in the column so the top update is not visible. This will cause updates to queue up while you read your updates in the column. To allow the updates to continue again, just scroll back up to the top.”

3. People in harm’s way DO use social media to gain information.

I have heard response organizations and local government agencies bemoan their low number of “fans” during the preparedness phase. But, as I have said before: if you build it people will come–especially during a crisis. This was borne out again in Hawaii as a result of the tsunami. The FireTracker2 reported via twitter that the County of Maui saw a 700% increase in their facebook fans. You can see from the screen capture below that the community was grateful for their efforts.The counties’ page is really quite good, they had a wonderful series of pictures of county authorities rescuing a giant turtle that washed ashore after the tsunami. The community, luckily, received very little damage–and I think it turned out pretty well for the turtle too.

This is just a short list of what we are learning but we seem to be learning these same three lessons with each crisis. One last point: social media is not going away. If you are not a social media user, tap into the wealth of information out there and use this event as a way to learn how to monitor these new mediums. Hopefully, if you were on the fence about using social media for your response organization, this example will change your mind.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this crisis.

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