4 Jun 2012

Social Media & Crises (2)

Arranging environmental monitoring requires enough manpower trained for such communication tasks. In the latest e-newsletter of the Dutch National Crisis Centre a one-day national event was mentioned during which, among others, a team of 8 media analysts was active. In the case of a breaking crisis more media analysts would have been added, next to other crisis communication experts. Now two of them focused on monitoring of approximately 4000 tweets that day. Analysing social media discourse is still time consuming but tools like Seesmic are helpful and such tools are continuously further developed. At this stage the aim is to detect information, to get an early warning of possible problems or misperceptions.

When a crisis hits, people look for information on Internet. Not many people know how to find the suitable authority webpage for the current disaster. Usually they use a search engine and type the name of the crisis. Then they first get a list of links to news sites and a diversity of other mostly non-confirmed sources. In many cases the official websites of authorities involved may not even be mentioned in the top of the search results, and this is especially lacking in the later phases of a crisis. So maybe there is a good team available providing much needed information, but their website is not found by the search engines.

For this there are several solutions. First, authorities may get higher on the list of search results by using Google Adwords. Facilitating that people connect with official crisis communication sources is not new, as for example many phones have pre-arranged the crisis notification number 112, and television channels can be interrupted for crisis messages according to regulations in many countries.

Second, one can also invite traffic to the website by own interventions in the social media, using a multi-channel approach. Tweets are an efficient way to update authority information on the crisis situation, and different public organizations involved can coordinate content and use the same hashtag. Public organizations can include links to their website in their tweets and postings on social networking sites like Facebook.

Preparedness campaigns can refer to the crisis and preparedness website and thus increase familiarity with it. Some countries have a portal leading to all kinds of governmental information and may add a clearly visible link to the website that offers information on a current crisis. This website could next to instructions and background information also include a section in which own tweets and posts are brought together on the current crisis. Websites that facilitate 112 notifications sometimes also show those notifications already given or confirmed, and may visualize this using crowd mapping. Fast procedures and an integral approach with many ways to Rome are advised.