Background and Context
There has been an exponential growth in the use of digital and social media over recent years. It is now common place not just in people’s private/social lives but also very much in a work context. Many organisations have embraced the power of social media.
Responders are using social media as a method of widening their access to communities and engaging with people through their preferred method of communication.
Social media can play an important role in the Recovery Phase of an emergency. Communities can feel isolated and abandoned once the Response Phase is over and the spotlight of traditional media is removed. Social media can offer a way of maintaining that bond and help support engagement, even if the community itself is disrupted or geographically spread. It can help to monitor the needs of the community; increase feelings of connectedness among the community and improve relationships between responder organisations and the community; and increase coordination between community groups.
Policy and Guidance
The Civil Contingencies Act (CCA) places a duty of Category 1 responders to communicate with the public through all stages of an emergency. Social media should not be used in isolation but integrated into emergency communication strategies.
Chapter 7 of Emergency Preparedness (the statutory guidance which supports the CCA) contains a wide range of guidance on communicating with the public and the use of social media.
Many organisations and Government Departments have produced guidance on the use of social media.
The Civil Contingencies Secretariat commissioned the Defence and Science Technology Laboratory (DSTL) to conduct some research into the use of social media and develop some top tips for responders based on their research into the use and application across the globe to understand where and when its yields the greatest benefit.
- people need information - information drives decisions and actions. In order to make a good decision, individuals will automatically search for as much data as possible;
- people will seek to confirm information with people they trust. People will seek to verify information provided through official sources with family and friends;
- give a role to regular people - people need to communicate with each other. Talking to each other/passing on info and confirming info and necessary actions.
- Please remember it is not the only tool in the tool box! Complement not conflict with other methods.
- It does what it says on the tin! It is social and it is a personal medium.
- Make sure you take time to develop trust with your audience and be honest or true. It has to be accepted as a source of information - work hard to develop your profile and entice people to follow you.
- Don’t think this is a way just to push information out - if you only want to do that then social media is not the answer. Remember there is a resource implication and you need to be prepared.
- You can not hope to capture a wide population immediately take time to establish your network (followers). People need to use it as 2nd nature and in order for this to happen it has to be regular/frequent and relevant.
- Quite simply you have to be brief with some of the social media tools - maximum characters! 140 characters for Twitter.
Other topic sheets
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2011 London Riots (#riotcleanup). Download the case study.