Are You Social, Or Media?

I find that the more that I help folks set up social media presences, the less I talk about the tools (which is mostly what they want to talk about). Very little Twitter, some Facebook (admittedly no Google+). I talk about the process, the why, goals and objectives.

Earlier this week, Scott Horvath of USGS summed it up perfectly. This might be my closing slide from now on:


Joplin Recovery Via Facebook

The story out of Joplin, Missouri continues to amaze me. From the
tragic tornado, to the incredible response, to the ongoing recovery
(and amazing community that has grown out of that effort), Joplin
continues to set the bar for the twenty-first century emergency cycle.

And aside from the viciousness of the disaster, nothing is more
indicative of that new cycle than how essential Facebook has been to
the response and recovery. I talked a bit about that during our 12
Days of SMEM series
but this week, the wonderful Kim Stephens gave an update to the
with a guest post by Rebecca Williams that I think truly exemplifies
the effect Facebook has had.

On the timing of setting up Joplin Tornado Info:

The tornado hit at 5:41 p.m. At 7:36 p.m. Joplin Tornado Info Facebook page made its first post, went viral, began connecting dots between needs, resources, transportation, storage and dispersal and had become a trusted, timely news source.

On the use of non-affiliated volunteers to manage the crush:

It all happened so fast and just as fast there were people helping us. Several groups and individuals such as the group of people that went to the computer lab at Crowder College and continuously posted critical information to JTI were unofficial admins of the page and vital to our efforts.

From the beginning we relied on the JTI community to post and repost for the good of the Joplin effort. Jennifer and Michelle both reached out from Alabama that first night to help. Volunteer admins signed on and others just took it upon themselves to help. JTI was a community page and early on people responded. Within hours we also had admins and or points of contact from all of the utility companies.

Relief organizations, Churches and news sources began posting on our site as well. We made every effort to read and answer every post. JTI pages moved so fast at one time that it was necessary to repost vital information often or it became lost in the Facebook newsfeed. We monitored all available news sources and reposted to JTI.

The Williams’, on an associated Tumblr site, recently posted this
great lessons learned document about setting up a crisis information
site in the aftermath of a
Seriously, that link is the meat here if you have any desire to do
something like this or some understanding that you may be called on to
do this work. It is now a standard part of my crisis social media
training, and will be integrated into my Virtual Operations Support
Team trainings.

UPDATE: The wonderful folks at JoplinTornadoInfo asked me to pass this document along. It’s a stand-alone document that gives lessons learned, best practices, tools for use as well as background information on both the Joplin AND Branson, MO tornadoes. A big, big recommendation to download and read this thoroughly.

The Secret to Social Media Success Has Little to Do With Social Media

You want to know why your agency’s social media effort isn’t getting the rave reviews you always wanted? I say it’s because you’ll never do what basketball superstar Stephen Curry did with his most recent contest. He solicited fans to make recordings of themselves hitting a difficult basketball shot; the more outrageous, the better. He picked out his five favorite shots and posted them to his Facebook page, asking fans to vote for their favorite. The winner was to receive a voicemail recording by Mr. Curry. That’s it. You could do that, right?

And that’s pretty cool. I’ll bet if your agency did something like that you’d get a few hundred extra fans and some media exposure. And if you roped a local sports star in, double or triple that exposure. But it’s what’s happens next is why your efforts won’t reach Mr. Curry’s level.

A couple of weeks after the contest ended, Mr. Curry’s team was in Philadelphia, not far from the winner’s home. At the last minute, the winner connected with him and asked him to drive out there. His entourage made the following video and easily got him a few hundred more fans for life.

And while some will say that the success of this campaign is because, y’know, it’s Stephen frickin’ Curry, I think that a big part of that success is his interactivity and flexibility to change and adapt to the situation. By approaching the campaign as if it wasn’t a campaign, but instead a conversation with the public, a friendship to be nurtured, something to give back, it was guaranteed to be a success.

Don’t Start Using Social Media

I love what I do. And I love to talk about it. Well, as
you’re reading this, that’s pretty easy to see. I mean, why else would
I spend hours per day curating my Twitter feed, managing more than 100
RSS feeds, researching topics for blog posts, writing blog posts. (And
admittedly, the tech has made it easier. I no longer write blog posts
out long-hand on the bus and transcribe it late at night once my
family had gone to bed.) I’ve told people before (and probably will
again soon) that if they find me two people interested in social media
and emergencies, I’ll go and talk to them. Like I said, I love what I

And I, and many others who do what I do, will happily tell you how
easy it is to get started in social media. Just start listening, we’ll
say. Just create an account and talk with your communities. Be you.
Follow this super-easy flow chart for responding to
True, we aren’t as bad as the social-media-guru-snake-oil-salesmen who
tell you that you can get thousands of followers in just fifteen
minutes a day, but that’s really just a matter of degrees. The best
amongst us are sure to qualify the end of our presentations with a
note about the burden of incorporating social media into one’s public
information campaigns. (I once told a conference presentation audience
that because they heard what social media can do, I just made their
jobs twice as hard to be successful at. No one bought me any drinks
that night.)

The other day, I came across this great article that talked about the
dedication it takes to truly embrace social

and tagged it with this great line:

[Y]es, you too can be a 25-year overnight success by riding your collective 140 into the sunset.

The author’s point came about because someone didn’t believe that
Twitter could be a useful tool, because you can’t really say anything
in 140 characters. He responded that he agreed and proceeded to list
all of the avenues he’s utilized to build his brand. Newsletters,
email listservs, ebooks, tweets, seminars, speeches.

Social media is a full-time job, and for many, most, all (?) PIOs,
it’s impossible to add another full-time job on top of what they
already do. So it should be done intelligently, with both eyes open.
There should be a plan for success and resources devoted to ensuring
that success. Anything less will fail. And not like your newsletter
that failed and nobody noticed it, but a public failure that repeats
itself every time someone looks up your now abandoned social media
accounts and considers your agency a dinosaur.

So, I encourage all of you to seriously consider making social media a
part of your public information portfolio. (And truthfully, the
pressure to do so will only continue to grow, so start thinking about
it now.) Identify and devote the resources to ensure success (however
you define that). Just come up with a plan to do it first.

Timeline for Facebook Pages

Yesterday, Mashable reported that Facebook had made
available to Page Administrators the ability to move their Pages to
the new Timeline
Many users will, of course, complain about the changes. (I think
that’s written into our agreement with Facebook, that we must whine
about UI changes.) But I think it’s awesome and it has the potential
to do some REALLY cool things that government agencies (even public
health departments) should seriously consider implementing.

See these examples from Mashable:

The timeline of Livestrong’s Page that Mashable was shown began with photos of Lance Armstrong bed-ridden with cancer—powerful stuff. Manchester United’s timeline points to its rich history, with the first entry dating back to 1878. Brands can also call out specific milestones—a first sale, major acquisition or debut of a hit product, for example—by starring them so they appear double-wide.

Think about highlighting awards that your agency has won, or
Administration changes, but also big deals that consumed your agency.
I’m already considering how I’m going to put the H1N1 influenza
timeline (links to news stories from when it hit the news, links to
local articles about the first cases here, highlight when the vaccine
was available in Philadelphia, add pictures of clinics that were
running) so it actually tells the story of the pandemic on our Flu
Facebook page. Imagine updating the Joplin Missouri Facebook page with
pictures from the day and those initial storm reports. You know, all
of those things that we’re too busy to do because we’re, y’know,

Those of you who are paying close attention to my examples above will
notice what I’m proposing. I want to write the story of what we have
done. Consider that from a crisis communications standpoint. Right
now, someone who finds out about a crisis that affected your
organization weeks, months or years after it’s happened will scan news
articles that probably paint the situation as dire or your
organization in a poor light. They will ultimately come away thinking
poorly of your organization. Now imagine if they find your Facebook
timeline and see all of the steps we took during the crisis and the
reasons why you took them; I’m willing to bet if they see your side of
the story, maybe they come away thinking a bit better about what
you’ve done.

I imagine this process will become standard for corporations with
sour bits of history.
Governments will take a bit longer. And many
will complain that it’s akin to whitewashing, but I believe that
unless your organization actually acted with reckless disregard, what
I’m recommending is actually transparency. The second side of a
one-sided story.

I, for one, can’t wait to take advantage of this amazing new tool. You can learn more about the changes from Techcrunch