Think Smaller

We spend a lot of time in our little social media (#SMEM) bubble,
talking about how vital it is for government agencies, first and
second responders, and the human service industry to be “present” on
social media. It’s the future, we say. It’s trendy, your executive
says.

And all of that is true. It’s just not the whole story. Nor the why.

You see, there are two reasons that social media is so critical to
crisis communications. The first “why” is because that’s where the
audience is. Study
(Neilsen, 2011) after
study
(Pew, 2011) after
study
(American Red Cross, 2011) has shown that Americans use social media
as a big part of their lives. And that big part, it just keeps getting
bigger. I’ve yet to see a study that has demonstrated a decrease in
either the percentage of people on social networks, or time spent on
social media sites. You can yell as loud as you want, but if you’re
talking to your publics, they’re probably not going to hear you.

The other “why” is mobility. It’s easy to get updates via social media
when you’re not at a computer. Like y’know, when you’re in the middle
of a crisis or disaster. Whether it’s using dedicated smartphone apps
(e.g., Facebook,
Tumblr, Twitter,
etc.) or tools like Twitter
FastFollow
, people can
utilize their phone (which everyone has these days) to get more
information. Proof? From the Nielsen study:

Nearly 40% of social media users access social media content from their mobile phone

Internet users over the age of 55 are driving the growth of social networking through the Mobile Internet

From a 2010 Pew survey on mobile
use
:

Compared with 2009, cell phone owners ages 30-49 are significantly more likely to use their mobile device to send text messages, access the internet, take pictures, record videos, use email or instant messaging, and play music

In total, 64% of African-Americans access the internet from a laptop or mobile phone, a seven-point increase from the 57% who did so at a similar point in 2009.

But that’s not the whole story. Sure social media is great, but it
(say it with me) is just one tool in the toolbox. You still have to
have a place for press conferences and letterhead for releases and a
website. Hey, your website! Since we’ve already established the social
media users are using mobile means of accessing social media, why not
head over to our local government website on our phones and check
out… Oh, yeah it doesn’t really fit. And the pictures and animation
are all missing. The drop-down menus screw everything up…

Someone needs help building a mobile website. And fast.

The Sensei Marketing
blog
posits these
things to more fully utilize mobile websites:

  • Create a mobile status page for your company’s live crisis updates
  • Allow it to localize the updates by zip/postal code
  • Add to the ability to text updates to customers automatically
  • Integrate the service with field teams so that when they roll into
    an area, customers know
  • Hook it into your social accounts so overly concerned customers can
    communicate with someone
  • Let them share it with others easily; enable your customers to help
    you manage the crisis and disseminate official news and updates.

Do you have any other tips for building a mobile website, especially
as it relates to crisis response and communication?

One more thing, just because in between writing this post and posting
it, I heard from one of my social media heroes, Andrew
Wilson
who was casting about
for ideas on the future of the communication
team
.
One of his most immediate suggestions was for the inclusion of mobile
technologies specialists on the team. Great minds and all that. =)

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