Social Media & Emergency Response Lessons from a Pioneer

In Case of Emergency, Read Blog  creator, John Solomon, recently conducted an interview with Los Angeles Fire Department Public Information Officer, Brian Humphrey . Humphrey is a pioneer in the integration of social media with emergency preparedness and response. His remarks  underscore the power of social media to avert a disaster.
 

From practical experience, Officer Humphrey offers some important lessons for emergency response agencies:

1. Emergency response agencies need to get involved in social media. “Get in the pool…Listen. Absorb the information around you.” 

Social media networks can act as critical listening posts for emergency response agencies.  Joining such networks and monitoring them for key words during key events -- and providing timely information through social networks -- can help prevent a crisis.

2. Understand that social media is a force multiplier. “It allows you to hear over a broader area. It helps you filter the information. As an agency, it helps you expand your information beyond the physical borders of your domain.” 

Identifying reliable social network sources and influencers can help an agency spot relevant information and communicate preparedness messaging quickly and well beyond an agency's traditional communication network.

3. Listen for the beginning of a crisis and respond vigorously the moment you hear one developing.  Social network messaging can provide early warning of  a crisis, whether it  is the beginning of a sense of panic during a large public event, or news of any of variety facts where the sheer volume or breadth of such facts may suggest a crisis may soon be at hand.  Providing swift, credible information addressing the potential crisis through social networks may help avert a crisis or lessen its magnitude.

4. Communicate in a manner that the public wants, i.e., through social networks.  Social network messaging has become a primary means of communication, both as a place for communicating as well as looking for information.  Providing information through social networks increases the likelihood the information will be heard and shared in a timely network.  An added benefit is that social network users are quick to share important news to members of their own network.

5. Make your messaging “hyperlocal” and relevant to your audience.  By participating in social media before a crisis arises, emergency agencies can identify social media "influencers" who can help target information so it is shared with those most likely to benefit from receiving the information.

6. Elected and appointed leaders need to understand the importance of social media. “One of the biggest challenges we have is with our elected leaders and appointed leaders in helping them understand as well.” 

Social network participation requires a commitment of resources, from time, talent, and training.  An understanding by elected and appointed leaders of the role social media can play in a crisis is central to achieving a commitment of resources to effectively participate in such networks and to provide the authority necessary to communicate critical information. 

Asked what he might say to officials skeptical about social media, Humphrey offered a somber, real-world comparison that goes to the heart of the pivotal role social media can play in averting a crisis. Humphrey explained:

A brief while ago, 19 people died in a festival in Germany  when there was a stampede at a rave or a music festival. We had a potential for such a situation in Los Angeles. More than 100,000 people gathered for a rave. We were monitoring social media and began to see panic-type situation ensuing. We immediately inserted messages into social media that were repeated time and again to many of the 100,000 people there Now, I can’t say for certain that those people there didn’t stampede or have a problem (as a result of the social media messaging they were receiving), but I know that there was no panic because they were getting official information from the source in the manner they wanted it.

The stark comparison offered by Officer Humphrey between two major events, one that ended in tradegy and the other that was completed safely, should not be missed by public safety officials:  the vigorous use of social network monitoring and messaging in one prevented panic when public safety officials noted social networking messaging suggesting the beginning of panic, with public officials then inserting their own sustained messaging through social networks.  As modes of communication change in fundamental ways, so must the manner in which emergency agencies communicate.

Offering a final thought on the integration of social media with emergency preparedness and response, Humphrey noted: “If it works in LA, it can work in your town too.”

For more on Crisis Social Media, please follow:

@CrisisSocMedia 

Related posts:
 
LAFD - Social Media and Emergency - Twitter
 
10 Reasons Social Media Is Important in a Real Crisis

Many Emergency Officials Still Don't "Get" Twitter

“Twitter's 140-character limit causes us some concern. Obviously, we can't give out highly detailed feeds…”  
Unidentified Emergency Response Official

The only thing “obvious” from the statement above is that the person uttering it has never taken any time to understand how Twitter works.

Unfortunately, more than one emergency official has spouted a variation of this statement in public announcements touting the planned use of social media during this year's hurricane season.

This oft-repeated canard underscores a glaring lack of an understanding of one of the most basic features of the information exchange on Twitter: the sharing of rich resources through the sharing of links.

“Concerned” because you can’t share much information in 140 characters? How about sharing the complete resources of the Library of Congress with a link of 21 characters? http://bit.ly/agfJ4W Or sharing the wealth of information available from the World Health Organization? http://bit.ly/9VZ0jC Or perhaps simply using 15 characters to direct people to the full informational resources of FEMA: http://fema.gov/ Or the National Hurricane Center hurricane watch in 19 characters? http://bit.ly/RiV0l

Emergency professionals need to spend just a little bit of time trying to understand how Twitter works before dismissing it as being impractical for getting out substantial information. Twitter has already proven itself to be a powerful and constructive resource when a real crisis strikes, whether it’s a tornado, an earthquake, or a civil crisis. Emergency professionals have a duty to understand and tap into social networks, such as Twitter, that would help them in fulfilling their responsibility of reaching out to and connecting with the largest audience possible, with the greatest speed possible.

There’s nothing wrong with being a novice. A novice, however, is expected to study a subject before lecturing about it. Emergency officials who are charged with a primary responsibility of communicating critical information before, during, and after a crisis should invest some time in understanding a network that has consistently beaten every source in providing the first and continuing information during major crises.

For those emergency officials willing to take the next step, there are many link-shortening services to choose from.

Additionally, the most popular Twitter client for the most active Twitter users, TweetDeck, comes with its own link shortener.

Now that we've sorted this minor point out, as Lieutenant General Russel L. Honore, “the General Who Saved New Orleans,” would say:

“Don’t get stuck on stupid…Don’t confuse the people, please.”
,
Please follow me on Twitter at @TrendTracker and @CrisisSocMedia, a stream dedicated to social media best practices in crisis preparedness and response.

Related post:  10 Reasons Social Media is Important in a Real Crisis

*The opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own and may not reflect those held by any organization or entity with which I may be associated.

When Social Media Becomes a Battleground: 3 Rules #bp


Three major players have enlisted social media in the communications battle covering the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill:   BP, grass-roots opponents to BP, and the U.S. government.  Each is demonstrating, in its own way, the power and importance of social media in a crisis.

The U.S. Government is taking a staid, but open social media approach to the crisis

The video that appears above is one of many being created and shared by the U.S. federal government on a YouTube channel, DeepwaterHorizonJIC.

As to the purpose of the channel, a statement explains: 

A United Command has been established to manage response operations to the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident. A Unified Command links the organizations responding to an incident and provides a forum for those organizations to make consensus decisions. This site is maintained by the Unified Commands Joint Information Center (JIC), which provides the public with reliable, timely information about the response.

Addressing the site's comment/posting moderation policy, the site states:

We will not accept comments that contain personal attacks of any kind; contain offensive terms that target specific ethnic or racial groups; or contain vulgar language. We will also not post comments that are spam, are clearly off topic, or that promote services or products.

A comment posted by the site's moderator, included an invitation to visitors with suggestions to follow a link where suggestions should be posted:

I've actually seen some pretty good ideas on here, but I'm only a layperson. If you have an idea on how to solve this problem, please visit the following page and follow instructions to submit your idea. Thanks!  http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/go/doc/2931/546759/

YouTube is just one social media network being being used by the U.S. government to address the crisis.  It has also enlisted:  Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter.  Clearly there is an effort to show a government hard at work.

Explicitly, at least, for the U.S. government, its social media engagment aims at providing:

1.  the public with "reliable, timely information about the response"
2.  organizations tasked with the clean-up a forum "to make consensus decisions"

From the comment moderation, visitors are also being encouraged to share their ideas on how best to respond to the spill.

It's not surprising that an Administration ushered into office, in part, because of its social media savvy, in part, through its social media savvy, would understand both the importance and rules of proactively engaging social networks in times of crisis.

BP has brought its resources to bear in the social media front, but it doesn't quite seem to understand the rules of engagement

You will find BP on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube.

1.  In a crisis, social media requires that key players share the latest information, good and bad; social media pages must be updated as major news develops: it is essential for credibility, authenticity, and transparency

Even after the much-anticipated and touted "top kill" response was deemed a failure, BP's YouTube page continued to feature a cheery message from the BP CEO announcing that he had "just left the control room....The operation is proceeding as we planned it."  Huh?!



Another video on BP's YouTube channel shows a BP crew of workers and volunteers arriving at a beach clean-up site, with a voice over noting that BP has described its clean-up operation as a "military-style operation."  On this day, BP sent its troops to one of the locations not feature in most of the news clips, as its deployment was to an area with only small "patches" of contamination "widely spread out."  While the video is plainly professionally produced, its content, which unmistakably attempts to minimize the magnitude of the disaster, only widens BP's credibilty gap as it is so completely at odds with the images of environmental disaster streaming across all other media.  It helps explain why the channel has only mustered twenty subscribers.



2.  Social media participants must share a real picture of what is taking place during a crisis; their failure to do so on one front calls into question everything else that they do decide to share

Looking at the collection of photos uploaded at the bpAmerica Flickr stream, one might think that BP's work crews had been sent to the wrong beaches and waters, as the ones shown in their photographs have shining white sand and clear waters.  Certainly one would expect BP to include in its Flickr stream shots showing its clean-up efforts, but in the world of social media, especially during a crisis, viewers expect to be given a candid picture of the crisis at hand, not simply a glossy best look.  Not so with the the BP Flickr stream.

Nicely-polished productions and squeeky-clean images are precisely the sort of content that makes board members smile - and the rest of the public go elsewhere for their information.

3.  When a key player in a crisis disregards the rules of transparency and timeliness, other players will dominate the field

A search of "BP" on Facebook does not bring one to the "official" BP Facebook page first, but, instead to BOYCOTTbp

Claiming to be a "grass roots" response to BP spill, the BOYCOTTbp Facebook page has a simple call to action:  "Boycott BP stations until the spill is cleaned up!..."

While the BOYCOTTbp Facebook page includes only a handful of images posted by the site administrator, they, too, are powerful in their simplicity.  Fans have posted over 1,000 images.

While the office BP Facebook page has 3,283 fans, the opposing page,  BOYCOTTbp has 214,685.

A similar story is told on Twitter, where the "official" BP Twitter account has 8,331 followers, while one BP "spoof" account has attracted 90,050 followers.

The Twitter spoof account, complete with its own leaking version of the bp logo, has been masterful in its flow of scathing commentary. 

Among its most recent tweets:

Feeling down? Why not take a long drive and blow off some steam? #bpcares

We are very upset that Operation: Top Kill has failed. We are running out of cool names for these things.

More than an expression of anger is at work in the disparity of the number of fans or followers separating the opposing social media camps:  it reflects a gap in credibility.
 
Please follow me on Twitter: 


Photo Credits:
First three are from the DeepWaterHorizon Flickr photo stream:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/49889869@N07/
Second two are from the BPAmerica Flickr photo stream
The photo of the dolphin is from the BOYCOTTbp Facebook page.
*Recognizing the dynamic nature of social media, numbers of followers or fans, ect., cited in this post, were accurate as of the writing of the post but can be expected to change with time.

6 Tips for Finding Great Content to Share on Twitter #sm

In the land of Twitter, you are known by what you tweet  Finding and sharing great content is the key to establishing yourself as a thought leader in the arena of social media.  Here are some Twitter tips on how to find and share great content:

1.  Do a Twitter search of users to identify and follow thought leaders in your niche. 

Once you've decided what field you would like to establish yourself as a leader in on Twitter, do a Twitter search of users and begin following those who are already sharing content in the space.  Listen to what they are saying and how they are saying it and follow their lead.  Check in on them regularly to keep abreast of the latest content and share what you consider to be best.  Retweeting the latest content from thought leaders is a great way to develop your niche, as well as an easy way to get the attention of and connect with established thought leaders.

2.  Create and save Twiter searches for your niche.

Twitter lets you set up and save searches.  Create some permanent search topics and check them regularly for good content.  Retweet the best of what you find.

3.  Create a Twitter List of content stars

Twitter lists are an easy way of keeping track of great curators of information, i.e., people who consistently find and share great content.  As you come across users who consistently share great content, add them to your content star list and regularly check in on what they're tweeting.  You will learn much and have much to share as well!  (OK, I must confess that this is the only list of mine that I keep private.  Seems I've read that you shouldn't give away all your secrets...You will find that a good group of Twitter content curators will quickly best the content you may have found previously using Google alerts.)

4.  Set up Google alerts

Creating several Google Alerts related to your field is a great way to identify and share original content.  You can let the story items pile up and pick through them at your leisure - though keep in mind that the live-stream, real-time nature of news today gives added points to those who share great content first.  Use terms in your search that will narrow the results and focus your niche.

5.  Create an AllTop account

This one step should help you enormously in staying on top of the latest developments in your niche: go to AllTop and set up your own niche listening post; the site makes easy the process of tracking the best articles on the web. Look for AllTop pages set up by thought leaders in your field to see what they are reading on a regular basis.  It's how I start my morning:  http://AllTop.com/GlenDGilmore

6.  StumbleUpon great content

I'm a fan of StumbleUpon, a site where users identify what they believe to be the best content on the web.  The site let's you set up your account to focus you on your own areas of interest.  Add a toolbar to your web page and when you need a break from your work, stumble.  You'll find some really great content to share!

Now be sure to folllow me on Twitter at @TrendTracker and share in the Comments suggestions you may have for finding that great content!  Thanks!  Glen (aka, TrendTracker)


Photo Credits:

Twitter Bird:  Flickr: Guy Kawasaki
Google Alert:  Flickr:  Ari Herzog









Travel Checklist #DigitalNomad

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. ~ Oscar Wilde

Phuket, Thailand
It doesn't matter how often you've traveled, it's a good idea to run through a checklist before you go.

There are a ton of apps that make travel easier and more interesting.  I'd simply recommend you search your destination in the app store to see what the latest and best recommended might be.  (Do get a basic learn-the-language one: even the worst attempt at speaking the local language usually brings a smile and warmer welcome.)  Do be sure to have a cloud service like DropBox or Evernote to access your documents wherever you go and Skype to call home.  (Good idea to add a scan of your important documents:  passport, any medical records, etc.)

Do also figure out where your nation's embassy is where you'll be visiting and even considering registering with them if your destination is a little dicey.

Hope my list helps and I hope you can add to it!


Travel Checklist:

__ Plane ticket  (Just double check!)

__ Passport/visas

__ Driver's license (I've never been asked to show an "international" driver's license to rent a car overseas.)

__ Credit cards (Bring more than one in case one suddenly no longer works, which can happen when your travel itinerary is overseas and the fraud department gets nervous.)

__ Notify your credit card companies you are heading overseas so fraud protection doesn't close you down.

__ Carry separately a copy of your passport, credit card numbers and credit card company phone numbers. (When your wallet and passport go missing, you'll be glad you took this precaution.)

__ Read up on where you're going and where best to exchange currency.

__ Shots? Vaccines? Talk to your doctor.

__ Prescriptions for contacts, medications.

__ Medical evacuation insurance (You'll be glad you have it if you encounter a serious injury.  I succeeded in fracturing my pelvis on a parachute jump in the Netherlands and the not-too-expensive insurance got me a flight back to the States with a private nurse at my side, with the final leg of the journey covering me as the sole passenger on a stretcher in a plane to my home state.)

__ Cell phone, charger and back-up battery (Add camera if you're not using your cell phone for photos) (Got a Kensington mini-battery for my iPhone for my last trip and loved it; unsponsored endorsement!)

__ Arrange overseas travel discount plan for your phone

__ Stop or have someone pick up mail and newspapers

__ Pet care

__ Plant care

__ ID destination wifi areas and Internet cafes before you go.

__ Weather reports for destination

__ Travel guide (ID your must-do sites, eateries, activities in advance: map em out and schedule them)

__ Do a Twitter search of your destination; ask questions

__ Accommodation reservations or options (check for wifi)

__ Compact language guide (sure you can download one into your smartphone, but I still prefer a small paperback)

__ Earplugs

__ Compact speaker to enjoy your music without your headphones

__ Know how you're getting to/from the airport (home and abroad)

__ First Aid kit

__ Toiletries (include toilet paper roll)

__ Sandals/flip-flops (essential if you're hosteling and using community showers)

__ Sunscreen

__ Bathing Suit (always look for a chance to swim!)

__ Sunglasses

__ Small towel

__ Undergarments and socks

__ Cotton pants and jeans

__ Cotton crew shirts and button downs

__ Wool sweater

__ Walking/hiking shoes

__ Business outfit: suit, dress shoes, dress socks, dress shirts, collar stays, cufflinks, ties; overcoat

__ Zip lock bags (great for keeping electronics dry if you're not carrying an umbrella)

__ Compact umbrella (ok, I skip this)

__ Lightweight hiking raincoat (a must)

__ Netbook, mouse, charger  (Be sure to have GoogleDocs, DropBox, or Evernote and Skype.)

__ 3-outlet wall plug mount (Crucial in an airport where outlet space is in big demand: you can ask someone to unplug their device from the wall, then give them a outlet, keeping two for yourself!)

__ Daypack cushioned for netbook

__ Electric converters

__ Gym attire

__ Waterproof watch

__ Reading material (I always pack a few books, preferably paperbacks, so that when dependable delays occur, I'm still happy.)

__ Pen (yes, I'm digital, but a pen still comes in handy!), highlighters (I like to highlight what I read - prefer paperbacks when I travel; put em inside a ziplock bag)

__ E-mail yourself important documents and presentations (Primitive, I know, but it works!)

__ Business cards in a zip-lock bag

__ Gift for hosts, new friends

Oh, and if you forget something, not to worry, someone is bound to have what you forgot!

Bangkok, Thailand (Beer boats!)
Please comment and add to my list!

Please join me on Twitter!  @GlenGilmore

Related Post:  10 Tools to Improve Business Travel  By Chris Brogan

10 Reasons Social Media Is Important in a Real Crisis

In the aftermath of the recent Tennessee floods, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) teamed up to put Facebook to the task of assisting in the disaster recovery, announcing, "an online hub for collaborative information-sharing through Facebook for the response and recovery to severe weather and flooding in Tennessee." 

In a  press release , FEMA explained:

TNDisasterInfo on Facebook hosts an online community where those affected by the disaster and those active in the response can share information. FEMA and TEMA, as well as their federal, state, and local and voluntary agency partners are posting recovery tips and updates, including shelter locations and details on how to access disaster assistance. FEMA and TEMA will also upload videos and photos from the affected area. 

1.  "Official" social media accounts created by governmental agencies can become a leading hub for sharing critical information.

As was done by FEMA and TEMA following the Tennessee floods, social media can be harnessed by governmental agencies to create a hub for sharing critical information.  Victims and those interested in helping them, are eager to find reliable sources of information, especially where they can share their own information or requests.  Social networks have become the primary forum for sharing information.  "Official" accounts give governmental agencies a chance to better participate in the online conversations taking place.  Over 2,000 people became friends of the FEMA/TEMA Tennesseee Facebook site, with many more visiting.

2. Social media beats traditional media in reporting news first; people flock to social networks in time of crisis; social media provides information before traditional media or relief workers can get to the scene of a disaster

Everyone is familiar with the iconic photograph of the airliner downed in the Hudson.  Few realize that the first and likely most-viewed photograph of the downed plane was not taken by Pulitzer prize-winning photographer from a major news network, but a guy on Twitter, @jkrums, who took the the photograph with his cell phone, then uploaded the picture to Twitter, where it quickly crossed the globe, shared by social network users eager to pass on viral content.

Twitter Earthquake Detection

More recently, following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, this year, the Nielson rating company reported that Twitter became the primary source for information and buzz about the Hait earthquake.

Back in 2007, Twitterati Robert Scoble pointed out that Twitters beat the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Earthquake Hazards Program by several minutes in reporting news of the earthquake in Mexico. 

Today, the USGS is developing a system, "Twitter Earthquake Detection" (TED), to integrate Twitter's success in providing first reports of earthquakes.

Tornados and Hurricanes

In April of 2010, when a Tornado struck an Arkansas community, it was Twitter that once again outpaced traditional media in the flow of information.

Using Social Media to Weather the Storm during Hurricane Season



Citizen Journalists and Community Leaders

Very simply, any traditional news outlet or relief agency just can't compete with a worldwide army of citizen journalists who never sleep!  These citizen journalists are everywhere and will be on the scene when a disaster strikes.  They will have the best first-hand information and pass on critical information to those who know how to listen. 

Community leaders who understand the prowess of social media can also be expected to play a role far greater than they ever have by their direct assess to social networks.

3.  Social media networks are dynamic: the content can be updated in real-time, from diverse users, to share the latest information about real needs and progress

In the aftermath of Katrina, needs went unanswered for too long.  While bottled water began to stockpile, baby food was in short supply.  Disaster victims can use social media disaster-recovery sites to inform disaster responders to real needs, not imagined ones.

Relief agencies, for their part, can use social networks to keep updated victims on supply deliveries, information on when utilities or other essential services will be restored.  Social networks are ideal for dynamic information sharing.

On the Tennessee Facebook set up in the aftermath of the most recent flooding, FEMA and TEMA also included videos showing the recovery efforts and showcasing the volunteers.  Updates on the recovery efforts are important not only to the victims and their families, but to volunteers and relief workers who are asked to accomplish daunting tasks under the most trying conditions.

4. Social networks can be used to direct victims on where to go to file claims and seek assistance

Social network pages set up by official disaster response agencies can help eliminate the guesswork as to where victims should go to file claims.  They can be used to include required forms that can downloaded and brought to the sites to quicken the processing of claims.  Updating assistance center locations and hours is also helpful. 

5.  Social networks can be used to enlist, direct, inspire and thank volunteers 

A constant in most disasters is the need for volunteers.  Social media, by its sheers and viral nature, can be used to enlist volunteers for a variety of tasks. It can also provide the information voluteers need to safely and efficiently serve.  Photos and videos of the work of volunteers can be used to inspire those volunteering their talents, as well as others who might be interested in helping too.  It's also a great way to let volunteers know that their work is appreciated.  On the Tennessee site, visitors to the Facebook page made it a point to share words of thanks to the workers.

6.  Social Media covers the story when major media chooses not to or is unable to do so

Tennessee Flooding:  Media Missing

Inexplicably, major media gave short shrift to news concerning the most recent, devastating floods in Tennessee, leaving many residents bewildered and without critical information when it was needed most.  Many messages on Twitter reflected this gap in news coverage, with network users complaining that the only consistent and current news they were getting on the flooding was from Twitter.  When the attention of major news outlets is elsewhere, social networks can fill the breach with real-time information.

Iranian Election Crisis:  Media Banned

During the height of the Iran election protests, major media found itself banned by the Iranian government from going to the areas of the country where massive protests were taking place.  Major media responded, at first, by largely ignoring the crisis, until the social network users created such a din about the lack of traditional media coverage that the networks ultimately responded by sharing the news pouring out of the forbidden zones through social networks, largely Twitter.  It became next to impossible to watch either CNN or Fox news for more than a brief period without hearing "Twitter" updates being mentioned several times.




7.  Social Networks are reliable mediums for conveying important information far, wide, and quickly

"Hah, gottcha!  What about the Twitter 'fail whale' and all the spam accounts?!"

Ah, the dreaded "fail whale."  Actually, the "fail whale" icon, used by Twitter to let its users know that the network is experiencing a problem, does appear more often than users would like to see it, but its appearance is generally pretty brief, usually a matter of seconds or minutes at most.

As to spam, most social networks have gotten much better at eliminating spam and regular users of social networks are also pretty adept at differentiating between genuine and spam accounts and messages
 
Additionally, regular users of social media also develop a base of trusted users.  How trustworthy can user-generated content really be though? How trustworthy is Wikipedia? Ask Britannica

"What about spreading news 'far, wide, and quickly?"  If relief agencies take the time to really engage in social media, i.e., share information, follow others, comment, retweet links from other users, etc., they will develop a network that they will be able to trust and that will trust them in return.  The benefit?  If a disaster were to occur, they could target critical information around the world. 

How?  An example, if Twitter user @GlenGilmore were to have information that was important to disseminate, he would know that he could turn to his network of Twitter users, send a message with a request that it be "retweeted" (shared by them to their own networks) and also DM them (direct message; a private message) power user (those with large networks of followers who are generally responsive) with an urgent message asking that they share a particular message.  With a trusted network of Twitter friends, @GlenGilmore knows that he can DM a core of social media influencers (users with high and responsive followings) and have an important message sent to over a million Twitter accounts within minutes.

An important message could even be targeted geographically.  He could send it to a large base of power communicators in France via @JeanLucr, another base of users in California via Zaibatsu, another base in India via @ParmitJNathan, Malaysia via @AskAaronLee, etc.  Now the is undoubtedly an overlap of users and where a social media communicator is geographically based may not fully reflect the breadth of the communicator's base, but one could reasonably conclude that a significant core of followers will have a geographic connection to the communicator.  Geographic targeting could also be gauged by the sort of content regularly shared by the communicator.  The end result of such targeted messaging is that a power communicator in the social media sphere can pretty confidently get a message delivered to over a million other accounts worldwide simply by asking the key communicators within his or her own trusted circle of users.

8. Social networks help in reaching those who are often difficult to reach

Blogging about his own conclusions after being on Twitter "a few months," Ontario Disaster Management Director of the Canadian Red Cross, in his post, "Twittering about Emergency Preparedness," offered:

"I can already see the benefits. The audience that I engage with there are the group hardest to get with the preparedness message. Upward mobile, professionals between ages 30 – 45 are busy with their career, dating, family, mortgages, etc. " 

To the point, Saunders, aka, @CRCSaunders on Twitter, wrote: "social media tools, such as Twitter, are generally proving to be important tools for disaster preparedness and awareness."  He explained:  "If you get enough of the right kind of followers, then your preparedness message will get out there more than any fridge magnet could." 

Agreeing on the importance of social media in disaster preparedness, Christopher Juckins, a meteorologist and technology programmer at the National Hurricane Center in Miami-Dade County, noted in a recent Sun Sentinal article about the important role social media is likely to play in the upcoming hurricane season in Florida region,  that, "Social media is a very important tool for getting our message to customers who might not otherwise look for our information."

Nonetheless, while it appears that the Center is planning to start a Facebook page by June, it is, according to the Sun, "steering clear of Twitter because the 140-character limit is not enough space to provide enough information."  This is an odd decision given the common use of links by Twitter users to convey extensive information in the form of a single tweet.

Many major news sources have established Twitter accounts and, during times of crisis, whether it was during the last H1N1 scare or the devastation in Twitter, some of the more social media savvy users created Twitter lists and hash tags to keep other savvy social media users attuned to what was happening moment-to-moment, by identifying Twitter sources who were sharing current and credible information.  (During the height of the Iran election crisis, I found myself listed on a few news media #IranElection lists as on-the-scene Twitter users began to dm me with the latest videos and reports from the streets where traditional media was banned from visiting.)

9.  Curation: Twitter Lists and Hashtags are well-suited for identifying reliable sources of up-to-date information

Twitter hash tags are a method used by Twitterers to identify topics of interest.  During a crisis, they are used as a way of letting the social media network quickly identify the latest news on the disaster. 

Following the Chile earthquake, Twitter hash tags helped one person another who was missing.

To identify particularly reliable sources of information during a crisis, the traditional news networks have been quick to use Twitter Lists to identify their best sources of information.

When the earthquake struck Haiti, the two, major U.S. television news networks, Fox News and   CNN,   both turned to Twitter for information about what was taking place in Haiti in real-time after the earthquate. 

Other traditional news networks turned to Twitter and created Twitter lists that identified the new media sources they were using to find real-time information:

NY Times, @nytimes/HaitiEarthquake

NPR News, @nprnews/HaitiEarthquake

 LA Times,  @latimes/haiti-quake

10.  Geotagging by social network users provides important context to the information being shared

In November of 2009, Twitter announced the activation of geotagging, a service that allowed network users to share their location on the network, i.e., the location from where they are tweeting.  Geotagging is an option users must enable to activate.  The location-based information is available to third-party developers who are already putting the location-based information to use.

To date, only a small percentage of Twitter users have enabled the geotagging activation.  Nonetheless, the ability to include geotagging in one's tweets is an option that user's could be encouraged to be activate were they to find themselves in a disaster zone.  This would allow rescuers to pinpoint with precision the location of users sending out requests for help.  This is also the very sort of scenario and option emergency responders should be considering as part of their responsibility to educate the public in advance of a disaster. 

Sites like flickr also already allow shared content, in this case photos, to be geotagged.  Social network giant Facebook is also expected to join the geotagging trend.

What next? 

Those entrusted with emergency preparedness and response should begin to study and use this powerful medium of comunication that has already proven itself as a primary means of communicaiton during the worst crises of recent times.  By investing now, emergency responders will have the understanding and network to put this powerful medium to work when it is needed most

Please share your own suggestions, stories, or links on using social media in crisis preparedness or response in Comments.  Thank you! 

Also, please follow me at my primary Twitter account, @GlenGilmore, and at my account secondary where I tweet about social media best practices in disaster preparedness and response:  @CrisisSocMedia.
PHOTO CREDITS (In the order of appearance.)
1st, 4th and 5th photos  http://www.facebook.com/TNDisasterInfo
Downed plane in Hudson @jkrums 
Haiti "White House" posted on Twitpic by @lisandrosuero
Child shouting, flickr, Chris Spira
Flickr geotagging, flickr, bmooneyatwork

Want to be found? Blog and Tweet! #SEO

"How do we get to the top of a Google search?!"

"How do we get to the top of Google search on a subject," is a question often asked by businesses hoping to be found on the web.  There are plenty of search engine optimization (SEO) "gurus" who promise secret potions for accomplishing the task of being found more easily on the web.  I simply don't know any secret potions.

Blog and tweet to found be found on web!

"Blog and tweet to be found the web" is not the sexy, sophisticated response that most businesses are hoping to hear when they are interested in soaring past their competition on the web. Instead, it seems that they would prefer that you lean close and whisper that you have somehow cracked a Google PageRank logarithm that will catapult them past the competition.  Certainly, having cracked a Google code would seem more worthy of an SEO advisor, but the truth is often a bit more mundane.



Yesterday, near eleven in the evening, I posted a blog about a new YouTube sensation, Greyson Chance, whose sixth-grade talent show performance has gotten him over sixteen-million YouTube views, an appearance on The Ellen Show, and a recording contract.  I then tweeted the post from my Twitter account.  My tweet of the Greyson post was then retweeted by others.  The result?  About nine hours later my blog post appears as seventh item in a Google search of "Chance Greyson."

Sharing and creating content in social networks may seem a bit plebian, but it still works in SEO

Now I don't expect my name and post to remain in this ranking for very long, since others will no doubt soon be writing and sharing much about this new talent.  However, for the moment, a simple blog post and few well-placed tweets have managed to wedge my name into the first page of a search about America's newest idol.  Want to bump me out of my ranking?  Blog and tweet a bit as well!

What A Sixth Grader, #GreysonChance, Teaches Us About Social Media

FOLLOW UP: 6th grader's performance of  Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" beats Lady Gaga's [26,615,294 views vs. 24,758,200]

UPDATE: 6th grader's talent show performance of "Paparazzi" is on course to hit more views, over 21 million, on YouTube, than Lady Gaga's!


In a matter of days, a sixth grader from Oklahoma, twelve-year-old Greyson Chance, has become a YouTube sensation, garnering over 15 million views, an appearance on the Ellen show, and a recording contract.  In the process, this kid from Oklahoma has given a few lessons for students of  social media:

1.  Find and learn from a model of success.  Greyson chose for his inspiration Lady Gaga.  Not a bad choice considering the fact that she is the first entertainer to achieve one billion views on YouTube.

2.  Find your voice and sing.  Greyson Chance has never had a voice lesson, yet he has a voice that has propelled him to stardom.  What made all the difference in the world was his decision to sing. 

3.  Share your passion.  Ah...just watch the video that follows.

4.  Be authentic.  Be yourself.  Chance chose to sing an extremely popular song from an extremely popular singer.  Yet, he made the song his own.  His version of "Paparazzi" is not an imitation of the original: it is an original, new version of the original.

5.  Don't give in to skeptics: convert them.  As Greyson began his performance at  his sixth-grade talent show, the expressions of his classmates seemed to convey disinterest at best: his performance visibly transformed skeptics into fans.

6.  Content is still king.  All the search engine optimization in the world still has a tough time trumping raw talent.  Content, really good content, whether it's a song or story, is still the best way to be found.

7.  With compelling content, video is a viral rocket.  YouTube is celebrating its fifth-year anniversary with two billion daily views.  Twelve-year old Greyson Chance is one if its users who decided to upload a video from his sixth-grade talent show.  15-million views later, the video shows no signs of slowing down in its viral trajectory.

8.  Give your friends more than one forum to connect.  Greyson first uploaded the video of his performance to his Facebook page, then to YouTube.  He has since added a Twitter account.  


Greyson Chance's 6th Grade Talent Show Performance



So what do you think?  And please join me on Twitter:  @GlenGilmore

Forget the bells and whistles: blog and connect!

Let me start by saying that I am not trying to make a case for mediocrity or sloppiness. Instead, I am trying to encourage sharing compelling content first and working out the kinks as you go along.

I’m a somewhat reluctant blogger. I have a passion to share some content, but I know that my blog does not have the bells and whistles a “real” blog should have. You know, the fancy retweet and connect-with-me-everywhere buttons, the links that are simply embedded in the text, the stand-alone domain….Yah, I’m a guy who tracks and devours social media and tech trends, but I simply haven’t made the time yet to figure out and do the neat tricks of proper blogging design – just not where my focus is at the moment. Consequently, I’ve been reluctant to blog as I know it only underscores my shortcomings in this regard.

Not long ago, however, I saw a tweet from my friend http://Twitter.com/Kim (See, if I really knew what I was doing, I simply would’ve had @Kim and it would’ve linked you to her Twitter account!), and she tweeted something about not letting a desire for perfection get in the way of getting things done. That was pretty much the gist of it. Don't let a desire for perfection stand in the way of getting things done.  I took it to heart and decided I would go ahead and do another blog or two and not worry about the absence of bells and whistles. A pretty cool thing happened as a consequence.

Recently, I travelled to Hershey, Pennsylvania to attend a charity dinner honoring Ford CEO Alan Mulally. As expected, the Ford CEO wowed us all. I really wanted to share the great experience I had had, so I decided to put together a post. Again, I knew my blog design was not quite worthy of the subject matter, but I just felt I had to share my great experience:

Ford CEO: 14 Lessons in Leadership and Marketing http://is.gd/7YCFw

The day after I after I published my blog post, I received a call from my friend, http://Twitter.com/AnneDGallaher, who had organized the Ford event. She said that she had just gotten a call from Ford’s corporate office asking for my cell number and she urged me to keep my phone close at hand. I immediately switched my phone from vibrate to signal, not wanting to miss a call if it came.

Naturally, I missed the called when I stepped briefly into a local supermarket where a cone of silence seemingly incapacitates all phones. Cool thing is, as I left the store, I discovered that I actually had a phone message from Ford CEO Alan Mulally. Graciously complimenting my blog post, Alan said that he had answered phone calls and e-mails throughout the day from people who had read it, said nice things about it, and wished that they had been at the event. Imagine that.

Alan ended his very kind message with his phone number. I quickly called it, bracing myself to work my way past the palace guard. That was unnecessary. The phone was answered with a simple, “Hello, Alan Mulally.” “Hello, Glen Gilmore,” I answered. Wow. Or, as http://Twitter.com/ScottMonty, Ford’s social media go-to guy informed me Alan would say, “Way cool.” Way cool, indeed!

So, the moral of the story?
Compelling content overcomes design shortfalls.
Share your story and you'll connect.


A few easy tips for my would-be blogging colleagues:

1. Set up a blog and begin to share your passion.

2. Worry first about the content you are creating and sharing.

3. Write about something that really moves you and it’ll connect with others.

4. Don’t let a desire for perfection keep you from blogging and connecting!

5. Research about how to add the bells and whistles – and try and make the time to add them… =)

And a few good posts to help us move from blogging amateurs to blogging pros:

20 Analytics Tools For Blogs http://bit.ly/tR6qm RT @Flipbooks @phaoloo #Analytics #Blogs

10 Free Ways To Increase Blog Traffic http://bit.ly/3gnyVW RT @phaoloo #blogs

Tips to increase comments on your blog http://bt.io/LCh RT @Iconic88 @the_gman @virtuosoblogger

Online tools 4 more productive blogging http://bit.ly/4KYi7 RT @the_gman @BuzzEdition @The_Tech_Update #blogs

Combat Comment Spam: #WordPress: 12 Tips & Tools http://bit.ly/Pg86L RT @mayhemstudios @syedbalkhi @wpbeginner

7 must have #wordpress #plugins for bloggers http://bit.ly/3TNtZ6 RT @leGouter

10 Most Useful Free #Twitter Tools for Bloggers - http://bit.ly/9DOji #socialmedia RT @brett #blogs

Nine Things NOT Forget When Designing a Blog http://bit.ly/xJrLo (via @twittilicious) #blogs

26 Free eBooks For Bloggers http://su.pr/318Smv RT @virtuosoblogger @rahuljrark #blogs

100 Ways To Improve Your Blog http://is.gd/2YNSE RT @the_gman @Gloson #blogs

101 Steps to Becoming a Better Blogger http://su.pr/6PUvsL RT @the_gman

Photo credits:  Ford CEO, Ford; Tricycle from Flickr Tyler Knott; Bicycle from Flickr Live4sports

On the Drawing Board (Upcoming Blog Posts)

Lessons in Marketing & Customer Service from Memphis

Trust Agents by Chris Brogran and Julien Smith – On becoming a “Trust Agent”

Connection Generation by Iggy Pintado – How to really connect