It's cold, wet and windy outside, but my wife is hanging nine stockings for nine beautiful grandchildren on the mantle. So maybe it is just getting my old, cold heart more into the Christmas spirit that made me focus in on a couple of social media stories worthy of sharing.
First involves the use of Facebook to reunite lost photos from Sandy with their owners. There are many examples of how social media, Facebook in particular, is a key part of recovery by providing an easily accessible resource for finding what you need or what may have been lost. It's easy for those of us unaffected by a major disaster like Sandy to not be touched by all the stories and even pictures of the disaster. But somehow, seeing how meaningful it is to find precious photos lost in all the muck and mud touches the heart more surely than all those pictures of flooding, floating cars and wrecked homes.
The second is from Bill Boyd sharing a story that circulated around the web (I got it a few weeks ago). I've replied more often than I like to think to those sending stories like this that they should check snopes first before sending something out that purports to be true. Separating fact from fiction, rumor from critical intelligence is one of the biggest challenges facing emergency managers as use of social media and UGC (user generated content) becomes mainstream as it quickly is. But Bill points out that sometimes what you get should be true, even if you can't be certain that it is. This heartwarming story is certainly one of them.
I hope that it is not too early for the beauty, mystery and meaning of this special season of the year to seep into your busy life as well. Let me be among the first to wish you a very Merry Christmas.
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Continuing our discussion about the reliability UGC (user generated content) or social media monitoring for emergency management decisions. I suggested in an earlier post that the perceived unreliability of UGC was enough for many EM professionals to discard the notion of using this information as part of response management intelligence.
The UGCAlliance is making an effort to formalize a process for verifying UGC. While this is aimed at improving media reporting based on UGC, it is equally applicable (if not more so) to EM. Media outlets--particularly CNN and FOX have been caught several times recently reporting tweets or other UGC that have not been verified and turn out to be damaging rumors. I applaud the effort to create an organized verification process. But I also agree with the position of the BBC leader in UGC that verifying content is more art than science. That makes a lot of engineering-type emergency managers understandably squeamish.
There is a far more fundamental reason why UGC should be adopted into the intelligence process of EM. It's called the Wisdom of the Crowd. No, it's not an oxymoron. Dr. John Orlando does an outstanding job of explaining the surprising wisdom of an aggregation of voices. His examples are not from social media, but experiments like guessing the weight of animals and finding lost submarines. This is well worth the read.
An additional benefit of this article is the discussion on VOSTs. If you are not familiar with yet another alphabet-soup jargon, it stands for Virtual Operation Support Team. It is harnessing the skills, abilities and frontline knowledge of disparate volunteers into your response team. I am very certain this is well on its way to becoming common practice.
I suspect that if you are one of those resistant to these ideas, you don't use wikipedia much. Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia and remarkable source of knowledge available to everyone, is built on the wisdom of the crowd. It is because of that wisdom that wikipedia has a reputation for accuracy and trustworthiness.
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Here’s the first of my new year’s resolution: I won’t talk much about social media in this blog in 2013.
That may seem ridiculous given the incredible level of attention social media is getting these days. Sandy and the Connecticut tragedy are just the latest examples of how each major new crisis or emergency event highlights the ever-increasing role of social media. So why not talk about it?
- I’m a contrarian. My friends and family like to remind that it seems I go out of my way to be contrary. And since everyone else is talking about it, someone has to decide to talk about other things.
- Everyone else is talking about it. There are so many great voices out there encouraging the emergency management community to get involved with this topic: Patrice Cloutier, Kim Stephens, Cheryl Bledsoe, Jim Garrow, Bill Boyd and on and on. I consider them the real experts and find myself just repeating what they are teaching me or referring to their utterances (Jim Garrow’s lessons learned from 2012 are a great case in point).
- Momentum is solid. While I’m continually surprised at the continuing resistance than many in emergency management exhibit (particularly police) they are assuredly being sidelined. Some by retirement, some by the inexorable realities being pushed upon them. It will continue to take a lot of pushing by those who “get it” but there are plenty who will continue to offer guidance to those who need it.
- There’s much more to crisis and emergency communications than social media. Perhaps this is the real shocker. It is certainly the primary reason for my resolution. I’m sensing that some pretty basic elements are being forgotten in this romance with the wild new possibilities of social media. What are those? How to write. How to identify and build the right relationships. How advise leaders on right actions (see Instagram’s big mistake as an example). Media relations basics. How to run a press conference. How to build trust. The role of character in reputation. The transition to visual (OK—this has some significant social media ramifications). You get the picture, there is plenty to address that is being missed.
- I don’t keep my resolutions. This is my way out in case I do write more than I plan on social media. For those who want to remind me of this resolution, don’t bother. I didn’t keep any of them before. I’m still several pounds overweight and still very much enjoying my cigars. So there.
Here’s wishing all of you a very blessed Christmas and holiday season.
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