7 Feb 2012

Social media use in crises communication

Privately I’m only moderately enthusiastic about social media, but when it comes to crisis communication I must admit there are great opportunities. It is much faster and easier to update information for publics using a Twitter account than traditional media. But more importantly, there are applications people can directly contribute information to.

Most impressive are Ushadid and Crowdmap developed in Africa that facilitate reports of individual citizens and visualize them on a map. But also Google Person Finder should be mentioned, a bulletin board using open software that can be integrated in any website, and the Red Cross Family Links Webpage. These are means for crowdsourcing.

For organizations crisis communication has not become easier, as expectations are rising and they will have to use multiple channels to address a diversity of publics. Integrated communication is needed, utilizing traditional and social media, next to working with communities and intermediaries. Much preparation is needed to have hidden sites ready for various scenarios, that when they are needed can be launched fast via social media spreading the link to these websites or other open sites with information on preparedness, such as www. ready.gov.

Organizations can cooperate during an emergency, using the same hashtag or even twitter account to update information. People can be asked as eye-witnesses to upload damage pictures on Flickr, or to help clean up the neighbourhood after an incident as has happened in London after the riots. Spontaneous actions vary from linking the Facebook page on a crisis situation to one’s own, to participation in donation contests in Twitter.

Of course, there are also challenges. Monitoring what’s happening during crises in the social media is one of these challenges. Feed provided from social networks and Twitter has to be analysed, e.g. using dashboards like Seesmic and Addict-O-matic, or Europe Media monitor. There is still a lot to learn and investigate!