Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Integrating social media in your EM and/or BCP program

Most readers of this blog know that I also collaborate on the PTSC-Online community which is a web-based tool to exchange with Canadian emergency management, BCP professionals and others. In the past, I've worked with my colleague Barry Radford to develop a crisis communications/emergency information plan template with a focus on social media.

I also recently completed a series of post on the integration of social media into emergency management (SMEM) ... a detailed outline of the "social convergence" continuum as it applies to disaster response and EM programs in general. Here's a brief look at the continuum:

  • NO SM: we still hear some EM types go: ..." I don't have time or the resources, or the money, to get into social media ..." or "... I don't know enough about it" ... or even ..."it's a fad and will go a way, we need official tools to communicate ..." 
  • Limited use of SM: ... the first step is ... acceptance ... social media platforms are now key parts of our communities' fabric. We have to move at the speed of our audience and that means, in some cases, using social media as an old-fashioned one-way communications tool, Think of Twitter (for example), as a key component of your alerting/notification process. 
  • Interactive use of SM: the realm of using more than one SM platform, integrating it into a good web-based information strategy. We know who some of the key "influencers" are, those who help shape public perception of our response.
  • Conversational use of SM: , the Listen, Learn, Engage formula. Now that we know who our key stakeholders who may be helpful to us are, we actually go out and engage with them on social media platforms. We know who to interact with to counter false information and dispel rumours. 
  • Operational use of SM: this is not only for the PIO or the JIC anymore, although SM play a key role in the provision of prompt, effective and accurate emergency information. Now, we're taking advantage of the "age of social convergence" where mobile devices/tech + SM = empowered citizens and volunteers ... This means we become aware of, and use to some degree, data provided by digital volunteers and crisis mappers. 
  • Integrated use of SM: We integrate those data streams and analyses in the EOC. More than that, it's use is expanded in all aspects of EM, from preparedness and mitigation to recovery.  SM is now a fully integrated part of our electronic emergency management systems and a proven volunteer coordination tool.
In addition to posts on each of the six steps, I've also posted on topics like setting objectives and getting started, setting up a social listening operation and, most recently, measuring your progress on the social convergence continuum. Here are the links to all 10 posts in the series: 

Series introduction (October 12, 2011)
Part 1: starting from scratch (October 23, 2011)

Although I started writing the series in October 2011, a lot of the topics are still relevant and most of the links in the individual posts are still live. I hope you will find them useful and that you will also look at the other great content on PTSC-Online.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Holy smoke, Twitter and crowdsourcing ... some thoughts.

We were reminded once again yesterday, of the omnipresent nature of social convergence (mobile tech + social networks) and how news travels. This great picture (thanks +Jim Aleski) really illustrates that reality. Thousand of people in St. Peter's Square, shoving their mobile devices in the air for a snapshot of history in the making. (NOTE: it now seems the picture itself might not be what it seems.)

Historical events and disasters are now captured and shared instantly. All this has happened in the last few years and the consequences for emergency managers and crisis communicators are immense.

I've talked before about what social convergence means for emergency managers. It's really up to us to use this phenomenon and improve our collective intelligence as we respond to disasters. There are now many apps/systems out there that allow for crowdsourcing damage assessments and reports of all kinds. There are data validation issues but they shouldn't deter agencies from expanding their situational awareness posture. 

But social convergence is not quite without perils, for EM and crisis communications practitioners. In particular, our planning must now integrate social networks ... both as useful tools and as possible threats.

I've written in the past about the threat to brands/organizations posed by "brandjacking" or parody accounts on social media. Well, it seems, not even the new Pontiff is immune to that unholy practice. Many news organizations, and thousands upon thousands of tweeps got fooled by a parody account who grew from 5,000 followers to over 100K in just a few hours yesterday. 

Maybe a closer look at previous tweets would have revealed the hoax earlier. Here's an excerpt from the Mashable piece (link in the above paragraph):
@JMBergoglio first tweeted last April, and many of the profile's earlier tweets reveal it to be a farce. The fact that most tweets are written in Spanish surely added to the confusion, but check out these translations:

"If I'm the new pope, children will love me more than the Santa Claus," it reads in English.
Now, it turns out the real Pope is on Twitter (probably a younger Monsignor at the Vatican) and already has a pretty good Facebook follower count ... So some SM savvy for the new Pontiff ....

A lesson here ... note the "verified" check mark beside the Twitter handle. Do you have one of these? How prepared are you to ensure that if someone usurps your identity on social networks. Think of BP soon after the Gulf Oil spill (funny stuff here) .... and it's PR nightmare amplified by a Twitter parody account).

First, you must be in a position to know someone is posing as you. Are you conducting ongoing social media listening and web monitoring on a routine basis? Can you ramp it up in a crisis? Those questions must now be answered in any crisis comms and emergency information plan.

I'd suggest getting to those answers before the white smoke fully dissipates over the Vatican ... or Habemus Crisis ...