14 Ways Unions Are Using Twitter #Labor

*The writer is an honorary member of the Mercer County Central Labor Council, NJ,  AFL-CIO

1.  Sharing Multi-media to Tell a Story

A picture may be worth a thousand words -- but a video is even better:

2.  Updating Members on Contract Negotiations

3.  Promoting Members

4.  Reminding Members of Marches and Rallies

5.  Getting Members to Sign Petitions

6.  Encouraging workers to organize

7.  Reaching Out To Other Locals And Connecting

8.  Encouraging Elected Officials to Take Action

9.  Encouraging Members to Contact Elected Officials

10.  Thanking Elected Officials for Support

11.  Calling for Boycotts

12.  Whistle-blowing

13.  Using Their Profiles to Bring Viewers to Their Blogs & Main Sites

14.  Using Their Tweets to Promote Other Social Media Accounts

How Unions Could Do Better On Twitter

If anyone should be good at being "social", it should be unions.  It's their lifeblood.  Yet, it's here where some unions are falling short.  How?

The biggest mistake some unions are making is to simply be absent from social media, creating a void that lets their opponents dominate the arena.

And some who are there would be better served by embracing some the medium's basic social gestures, like following back those who follow it, so a better bond can be created and communications fostered.  (You might even get a hot tip or two when there's an ability for private conversation, which requires mutual following.)

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union boasts in its Twitter profile that it "represents 1.3 million workers in the U.S. and Canada."  Yet, the UFCW only follows 357 accounts and only garnered a meager 1,970 followers.  If it encouraged its members to participate in social media, it could magnify its voice within the medium in a major way, allowing it to carry its message more effectively. 

 There's also not much retweeting going on, which means that union accounts are missing out on one of the easiest ways of building new connections in social media, which is through sharing great content from others.  When retweeting occurs, the favor is often returned, allowing messages to travel much farther than they would otherwise.  One accounts that gets this right belongs to the @AFL-CIO

Others have created accounts, but have let them sit dormant -- for years.

Also, letting others take your primary territory is never a good idea.  Name squatting occurs on Twitter.  When it does, every effort should be made to regain the ground by filing a formal complaint so that a primary name is not simply wasted by someone who might or might not have a malicious intent.

Also, the first step in creating a strong social media presence is completing an account profile:  uploading a profile picture, setting an eye-catching background design, filling out a biography that has keywords to aid in search and information that helps viewers understand what the account represents.  Links in the profile also help viewers get to sites rich in detail and connections.  Not taking these steps misses an important opportunity.

As with so many businesses, unions are creating a presence on Twitter and still finding their way.  Once they do, the conversation of the forum will become even more vibrant.

Please join me on Twitter:  @GlenGilmore

"Twitter 911 (112 Europe)" - A Proposal #smem

About the Author Glen Gilmore served for eight years as the Mayor and Public Safety Director of a community of nearly 100,000.  During his tenure as mayor, his community was recognized by CNN as the "10th Safest City in America."  He also served as Deputy-Chair of the NJ League of Municipalities Hometown Security Task Force. During America’s Anthrax Crisis, Gilmore was dubbed "a national hero" by The New York Times and a  "man of action" by TIME magazine for his leadership in responding to a deadly risk posed to over 1,000 postal workers at a contaminated, regional postal facility in his community. An adjunct with Texas A&M University, he has assisted in the creation and delivery of crisis leadership courses funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through @NERRTC.

Is it really such a crazy proposal? “Twitter 911(112 Europe).” A simple network of Twitter accounts with a town name, state and 911 (411 for Europe):

I originally wrote this post in March of 2011.  In December of 2011, my home state of New Jersey encountered earthquake tremors for the first time in recent memory.  As a consequence, phone usage surged and the phone system failed, both cell phones and landlines -- for hours.  This rendered the 911 emergency system useless for hours, leaving those in an emergency without access to emergency communications and assistance.  Why?  Why when the internet remained intact and Twitter buzzed with activity.  I thought of my proposal and wondered why it had yet to be tested anywhere.

It is now three days after Hurricane Sandy and phone calling is sporadic at best: some areas simply can't be called, though Twitter remains unhampered, fully functional.

Please let me be clear that I advocate the use of a Twitter911 system only as a back-up when access to calling 911 is disrupted -- as happened for FOUR DAYS to 2.3 MILLION people recently in Northern Virginia.  And let me stir the pot a little bit more by noting that I think we should be putting into place protocals that would allow both Twitter and Facebook to be enlisted for emergency communications in such circumstances. -- What's crazier?  Tapping into a ready resource in time of crisis (and prepping the system and emergency responders and the public before it is needed) -- or letting emergency calls go unanswered for days as people look at their active social networks and wonder why -- especially when most communities now already have Twitter and Facebook accounts.

How would it work?

1. Open accounts. If a county or parish has seventeen towns, they open seventeen accounts:

@HisTownNJ911 etc.

2. Train. Train 911 call center employees.

3. Provide computers to call center. Dedicate a couple computers in the 911 call center (most towns have a few computers they can reshuffle at a moment’s notice without incurring any new cost).

4. Provide legal disclaimers. Consult with your legal department on how best to phrase all necessary disclaimers warning the public that using a Twitter account to convey an emergency message should only be used if someone finds that they cannot otherwise use a telephone to call 911; include warnings about possible “down”/”fail whale” times, and an alert time that may not match that of a telephone call to a 911 call center. – Whoa, wait, then why bother? Because it provides an easily accessible and integrated secondary means of communication.

5. Inform the community before launch. Inform the public. Go on local television, radio, print, Kiwanis and Rotary. (Yes, tell them to always try calling 911 first, but know that there is a secondary line of communication available if they cannot.)

6. Use the account for incoming emergency messages and “Reverse 911”. Reverse 911 is when a call system is used to send out emergency messages. The public could be informed that the account will also be used to send out emergency messages, while reminding the public that if it does so, questions concerning such messages should be referred to a non-emergency account or elsewhere, so that the incoming tweets remain emergency based only.

So what county or parish will be the first to harness the power of Twitter for emergency response?

 Some communities are already experimenting with Twitter, gathering and sharing information. Fire companies are there. Police departments are there.

Will a county or parish seize this social media communication platform and put it to work, if even in a pilot initiative?

More likely, it will begin where so many emergency preparedness and response innovations begin: at the local level.

Ah, but you ask: What happens when Twitter goes down? The same thing that happens when you try and make a call, but can’t.

Your thoughts?

Please join me on Twitter:  GlenGilmore and CrisisSocMedia

Related Posts:

Could Social Media Like 'Twitter' Be the Next 9-1-1? | Woodruff Health Sciences Center | Emory University

30 Reasons to Use Social Media in an Emergency

10 Reasons Social Media Is Important in a Real Crisis

Social Media and Emergency Response Lessons from a Pioneer

How NOT to Use Hashtags and RTs in a Crisis

30 Reasons to Use Social Media in an Emergency #smem

1. It’s real time

2. It’s self correcting

3. It instantly connects you to millions of people around the globe.

4. It never sleeps.

5. It connects you to hundreds, if not thousands, of relief agencies.

6. It connects you to thousands of emergency response professionals.

7. It's almost always at the scene of an emergency when it happens – or it’s there moments afterwards.

8. It let's emergency responders monitor actual conversations at the scene of the emergency in real time

9. It provides numerous, real-time reports on the effects of the emergency.

10. It provides real-time photos of the effects of an emergency.

11. It provides real-time videos of the effects of an emergency.

12. It provides numerous, real-time reports on the success or failure of relief efforts.

13. It provides real-time photos of the success or failure of relief efforts.

14. It provides real-time videos of the success or failure of relief efforts.

15. It takes away much of the guesswork of emergency response.

16. On Twitter, hashtags let emergency responders, those in need of relief, relief workers and volunteers focus their listening and conversations to streamline the process of providing assistance when and where it is needed most.

17. It can provide real-time injury/casualty reports.

18. It can give real-time information on missing, separated or found emergency victims.

19. GPS capabilities can let rescuers know exactly where victims are.

20. GPS capabilities, as well as information from conversations shared, can help with crisis mapping.

21. Listening to social conversation can provide critical information on developing crises and permit the introduction of information within the same networks that may defuse a crisis.

22. Armies of volunteers stand at the ready to assist in the sifting of information.

23. You don't have to worry about matching or changing radio frequencies. (Not to worry, Twitter users know to turn to Facebook when the “fail whale” appears!)

24. The public already turns to social networks when an emergency occurs; they’re already there listening and communicating when emergency response professionals are ready to communicate.

25. It’s a powerful way of communicating emergency preparedness information to a vast audience of listeners from an incredibly diverse demographic spectrum.

26. Numerous, well-established accounts with scores of followers can be tapped to help curate critical information and pass it on to millions (Naysayers, please revisit point 2.)

27. The vastness of social network usage lets information be targeted as well.

28. You can tap into nearly any resource in a single tweet.

29.  Twitter Lists can be used to identify particular sources or resources.

30. It's easy to use….

I’d love to see this list expanded so that I could provide an updated post and a more complete list. Please share in the comments additional reasons you many think of to use social media in an emergency.

(Also, if I write a updated post, I‘ll be sure to share who suggested any additional reasons!)


And please join me on Twitter:  

@CrisisSocMedia  and  @GlenGilmore

Glen Gilmore served as Mayor and Public Safety Director of New Jersey's eighth-largest city when it became of the focal point of America's Anthrax Crisis.  Gilmore was dubbed a "national hero" for his crisis leadership by The New York Times.  He also served on the Board of Directors of a University Hospital and as an instructor in Crisis Leadership with the National Emergency Response and Rescue Center with Texas A&M University.

Related Readings

"Twitter 911" - A Proposal

How NOT to Use Hashtags & RTs in a Crisis

 Social Media & Emergency Response Lessons from a Pioneer

Ode to "Social Media Climbers"

"Social media climbers"....you know who they are...they are not blue bloods.   They don't share our pedigree.  They don't have OUR credentials.

Oh.  Okay.  Gottcha.

Excuse me, tell me again, just who are the "social media climbers"?


At an earlier point in my Twitter experience, when I had garnered a following of about 50,000, when  I was experimenting with Twitter, as I still am, I applied for a service that lets applicants decide if they would want to host an ad on their Twitter page.  I got my first request, from NASCAR, for a chance to race a car...Heck, I'd retweet that if I wasn't paid, so I retweeted it and got paid - and I disclosed that I got paid.

Got my second request for an ad on my Twitter page, along with a request for a retweet:  mention a new social media book and that if anyone follows and RT's, that person got a chance to get an autographed copy of his book.  I thought that was fine, as my standard is simple:  I will only accept a payment for an RT if I would have RT'd it without being paid.  In this instance, my impresssion was the guy who wrote the book was down to earth and expert in social media: I'd be glad to promote his book.  So I ran his ad on my page and retweeted the message about his book.

Curiously, he didn't reciprocate my follow, though, apparently, his press agents deemed me worthy enough to tweet about his book.  That's fine.  That was nothing but a business arrangement.

Ok, so what am I gettting at?

Not long after I ran his ad, thinking I was promoting a book for a guy who was on the level and social, I started to see him frothing about "social media climbers", you know, those people on Twitter who try and build a following...."Oh, sorry, you mean those of us who don't have publicists to pay others to run ads from 'social media climbers' asking that they follow you!?"  Ah...yah.

Yes, I'm venting.

It galls me when I hear certain "Twitterati" wax poetic about the "organic growth" of their following, when I know they did the unspoken dance of the Twitterati to get their robust following.

One Twitter "god", who follows about 19,000 and has about 44,000 followers, and who is fawned over by so many otherwise astute social media professionals, will pontificate about the "organic growth" of a following on Twitter -- and so many will trip over themselves to say "Amen" - but, I remember when he was following about 50,000, not 19,000...

Hhmmm.  I'm guessn I'm not going to be invited to any Mashable events.....

For the record, I am a social media "climber".  Fortunately, my clients consistently believe I bring them value.  Similarly, it seems that my friends on Twitter, as my friends always, generally forgive me for saying what I think....

Oh, and before you depart dear reader....as I've yet to get my publicist on board, might you be so kind as to follow yours truly?  @GlenGilmore  Thanks!  :)

How NOT to Use Hashtags & RTs in a Crisis

American fashion house Kenneth Cole, known for its socially conscious advertising, created a Twitter storm when, during the height of Cairo protests for democracy, on a day in which it was estimated that thirteen protestors were killed and hundreds more injured in Cairo, the erstwhile social media-savvy Kenneth Cole sent a message from its Twitter account that plainly aimed to use the Twitter trending topic to shamelessly promote its spring collection: 

"Millions are in uproar in #Cairo.  Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at [LINK] -KC" 

Kenneth Cole tweeted an apology when a Twitter uproar ensued that blasted Kenneth Cole for its shameless self-promotion on the back of human suffering. 

Despite this glaring example of how not to tweet in the mouth of human tragedy, Microsoft search engine Bing did its best to outdo the Kenneth Cole mistweet by attempting to ride another trending topic of human suffering, the terrible destruction and loss of human life from Japan's Sendai earthquake and tsunami:

A brand asking for a retweet of its name in return for a $1 donation to a relief fund, capped at $100,000, in the midst of a devastating loss of human life, is...let's try:  shameless, despicable...

Once again, perfunctory apology tweeted.

3 Social Media Tips During a Crisis

1.  Learn what Twitter hashtags are being used during a crisis.

Typically during a crisis, several hashtags appear, allowing the crisis to be followed with a high degree of precision, based on hashtags that identify given aspects of the crisis.  Understand what the hashtag means.  If you're trying to find out what a Twitter hashtag means, there is a site you can visit for some help:  What the hashtag?

2. Never use a crisis hashtag for anything other than important information related to the crisis. 

In many cases, those in the midst of a crisis are using the hashtags to relate real-time information to emergency responders and families and friends of victims.  Emergency management professionals and a dedicated group of volunteers will also be using the hashtags to pass on critical information.  Do not clutter important crisis hashtag streams with banter that does not advance a greater understanding of the crisis or in any way hampers the ability of victims, rescuers, relief organization, families and friends to convey critical information in the most streamlined manner.  (You might consider including subject, without the hashtag.)

3.  Keep advertising out of Twitter crisis hashtag streams. 

Your thoughts?

Related Post:

6 Reasons to Comment on Blogs

1.  It's easy to do.  Ok, so I get that you really don't have time to blog.  But you're reading blogs and when you're done, you could make a quick connection and gain a nice bit of exposure by jotting a quick comment.  Doesn't have to be a dissertation.  Just a line or two.

2.  You will read more.  Commenting on a blog will get you to read more, because it will engage you more in what you are reading.  This, in turn, will get you more interested in seeking out additional content on the subject...It just will.  You'll want to see how others have treated the issues and how other readers have reacted to the what was written.  A natural, human response.

3.  You will write more.  Well, to begin with, even that line or two in a blog comment will be more than most write in a creative way.  And once you've written your first line, it may inspire others.  Before you know it, you'll be saying to yourself:  "I should write something about this too."  And you should.

4.  You will think more.  We know that if we're going to comment on something, even a line or two, we need to be sure of what we've just read.  It forces us to ponder even a slight moment more on what we've just read.  It has a wonderful effect.

5.  You will connect more.  You want to connect with a blogger?  Write a comment, even a single line.  You'll get noticed, even if you don't think you've been.  And others commenting will take notice too.  You'll find yourself connecting with bloggers and other communication leaders. 

6.  It will inspire you -- and others.  What you think is important.  Sharing your thoughts with others will inspire you to do more, see more, and share more -- encouraging others to do the same.

Now...don't be afraid to comment...just a line or two.

And please join me on Twitter!

8 Secrets To #Twitter Success #sm

1.  Work at it.  The biggest secret to Twitter success (and everything else).

2.  Give it time.  You won't "get" Twitter for a while. Stay at it.  Like riding a bike, you'll know when you've gotten it:  it'll start to be fun.

3.  Work at it.  Hey, wasn't that your first secret?  It was and is.  But, like riding a bike, once you "get" Twitter, you need to practice even more so that you have the confidence to go farther, try a few tricks, go to new places.

4.  Find mentors.  The emphasis is on the plural:  "mentorS".  My Twitter mentors are many.  Who (why)?

Ok, so I'm partial to @Alyssa_Milano  Wait!  As in 'Hollywood actress' Alyssa Milano?  Yep.  It's true.  Why?  Follow her.  Don't be stuffy.  You'll see a real star who bares herself to her friends and strangers alike, sharing what she thinks and always showing great compassion and humor -- and connecting.  Really?  Really.

@ChrisBrogan  He wrote the book on social media - well, one of them:  Trust Agents

@mayhemstudios  He's a social media hotshot, but he has a disarmingly relaxed approach to Twitter, sharing a mix of light-hearted stuff, with serious links.

@SteveRubel  You're not going to get excited following his stream, but you can count on him sharing some solid social media news.

@AskAaronLee  Student/marketer from Malaysia - "No average Joe"

@TweetSmarter  Because if you do, you will.

@AnnTran_  A simple pleasure. 

@markwschaefer  I love when a blogger puts meat into his posts -- real research.  That's the only way Mark tweets and blogs.

@mySOdotcom  We reconnected recently.  Like his candor and friendly approach to Twitter.

@Flipbooks  The energizer bunny of Twitter.  He's all over the place by way of subject, but goes toe to toe with @GuyKawaski (another mentor) in pumping out interesting content.

@jeanlucr  A French version of the energizer bunny.  About half his tweets are in French, the rest in English.  Constantly shares great social media content.

@buzzedition  @iconic88 @adamsconsulting @zaibatsu @LoriMoreno @webaddict  @DrJeffersnBoggs @joycecherrier ... We've all been together now for a while.  Good people.  And they're there especially when you need them. 

@2morrowknight  Get to know him.  A great guy.  His #TwitterPowerhouses series (of which I'm honored be an advisor to) has established him as Twitter's unofficial biographer.

@pramitjnathan and his alter ego @iampramit  Always good content and very decent guy.

@SocialNetDaily  @douglasi  @jeffbullas  Good, steady stream of social media content. 

My mentor picks all over the place.  There are MANY, MANY more....See who I retweet:  you'll find the others.

5.  Be yourself.  Share what you find to be important.  Follow your passion.  If you do, you'll connect and inspire others.  Don't forget:  it'll take a little time.

6.  Listen and learn.  Keep evolving on Twitter.  Listen to yourself and others and change as you learn.

7.  When people ask for help, do your best to help them.  Do this and you'll make some wonderful connections -- friends and business partners.  (Yes, Amy and Anne, this is where I mention ya!)

8.  Find a way to have fun.  Have fun!  Figure out what puts a smile on your face, then do it and share it on Twitter.  You will assuredly offend some (it's just how it works), but, rest assured, you will connect with others.  It's always those we connect with that really matter.

BONUS Tip:  Connect with me on Twitter!  :-)