Getting Social Media Right During a Disaster

When Hurricane Sandy rocked the New Jersey and New York coastline in 2012 the public turned to social media to check on loved ones and receive up to date storm information. For many, social media was a useful tool. In a terrifying twist, however, bad information went viral. The social media rumor mill was not unique to Hurricane Sandy. Anytime there is a public safety emergency, bad information is bound to come out with the good. What can public safety organizations do to mitigate the rumor mill in a disaster communications situation? How can public safety make sure that good information will rise to the top of a social media newsfeed during a crisis? Here are three tips to help your organization get the best information out during an emergency.

  1. Engage your Stakeholders early

If you cultivate meaningful relationships with your stakeholders, nurture stakeholder trust, and prioritize stakeholder engagement in advance of an emergency you will be a go-to source of information when a crisis hits. If you are a go-to source, your stakeholders won’t look at other sources that might have unreliable information. At the very least they will cross-check any suspicious information with your reliable information.

  1. Encourage stakeholders to be your social media champions in advance of a crisis

For every 100 followers that your social media accounts have, maybe one of them will actively engage with you. These “engagers” will be your social media “boots-on-the-ground” during a public safety event; they will push information on your behalf and re-post or retweet your news alerts so that your message gets out there. Check out this post to learn how to boost stakeholder engagement in advance of a crisis.

  1. Become a leader in social media for disaster communications

Stakeholder engagement is a good start, but the future of social media for disaster communications lies in robust and scalable disaster communication social media strategies. The Red Cross is a leader in using social media for disaster communications. Check out their Social Media Digital Operations Center.

As the public increasingly turns to social media for crisis information it will become increasingly important for public safety organizations to manage the social media rumor mill and make sure that good information gets out instead of the bad. Check out these great examples of government organizations that leverage social media in all the right ways. For more advice and information on how to craft a compelling social media strategy, download our social media toolkit!

How does your organization stay ahead of social media communication during crises?

Image is from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center