Part 5: monitoring social media a routine and going into crisis mode

By December 20, 2011
OfflinePhoto of Patrice Cloutier

In today's world when reputations can be threatened within minutes, monitoring social media, even in routine situations, is a must. During a crisis, it should be an essential part of your operations.

Series introduction (October 12, 2011)

Part 1: startting from scratch (October 23, 2011)

Part 2: Setting objectives and measurement (October 23, 2011)

Part 3: Choosing your first social network (November 2, 2011)

Part 4 Interactive use of social media (November 22, 2011)

Social media monitoring tools should offer you ease of use, a simple look at what matters to you and the ability to link to relevant online content and export what's important to your organization. In fact, monitoring SM should take about 30 minutes of your day or less. It's not time wasted but actually a great way to increase your general situational awareness, enhance your professional development and learn new stuff.

Here's what some experts recommend.  In addition, a whole series of social media monitoring tools you can use are listed in the following links:

If we've established that routine SM monitoring is now a required element of your daily activities, how do you go about shifting your routine monitoring activities to those supporting your response to a disaster or a crisis? (thanks to Kim Stephens for bringing some of the examples below to my attention)
The first thing is why you need to monitor social media in a crisis or emergency:
  • to get an idea of what's being said about your organization's response to an incident
  • to get a better feel for the needs of your audiences impacted by a disaster or a crisis ... enhance your situational awareness
Here's an example of a tool that mines social media data to enhance your operating picture:

  • help dispel rumours and find out what misinformation is being vehiculated on social networks. Here's what a reputed crisis communications expert, Dr Robert Chandler has to say about this:

Here's an example from the aftermath of a tornado in the US.

  • social media as emergency information channels and crisis communications tools

Here's an example of how you can use Twitter to let people know about food distribution following a disaster:

A critical question to answer is where does SM monitoring fit in your response set up? in your EOC?
Is this solely a PIO function? or and ops/planning one? 
Any organization must ensure that the flow of useful data is channeled to the right people when your EOC is activated. There are tools and software platforms that integrate social media analysis, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping into your emergency management software.
To ensure continuity of operations during a crisis, you need to ensure 24/7 social media monitoring. This means adding staff, perhaps even relying on volunteers to do it for you. The beauty of this is that these people don't even need to be in your EOC to accomplish this work. There is a community of emergency management professionals and volunteers that are willing to help when disaster strikes,
As a final argument on the use of social media during the response and recovery phases, watch this video of Craig Fugate, the head of FEMA. His remarks make a lot of sense in a tight budgetary environment:
and the Australian experience:

About the author

Patrice Cloutier

team leadOntario government

Patrice Cloutier is a communicator specializing in crisis communications and emergency management. Patrice was the principal strategic communications planner for the Integrated Security Unit that…


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