Tag Archives: social media

Social Media – To Filter or Not to Filter?

I have to admit that I didn’t notice when the DC Fire/EMS Twitter account feed went silent on August 30.  A fact that I continued not to recognize until I read the article “#Silence: Fire and EMS Twitter Feed to be ‘Filtered'” broadcast in a tweet just this morning.  According to Chief Kenneth Ellerbe in a press conference yesterday, the account had not actually been shut down completely, but rather that its use was “being reconsidered” after what was explained as incorrect information sent out that had “imperiled the operation of another [federal] agency.”  You can review the history of past tweets from @DCFireEMS and make your own determination of their sensitivity.  The gag order, however, seems to contradict Mayor Vince Gray’s campaign promise of increased government transparency.  Most shocking, though, were statements coming after the press conference when the new department communication director, Lon Walls, stated, “I’d rather be slow and right than fast and wrong” (a statement which one of the comments pointed out as a “false choice”) while adding, “Social media is for parties.  We ain’t givin’ any parties.”

There were comments to the article pointing out that the “24-hour news cycle” of the 1980’s has been reduced to “milliseconds” these days and that information is currently being disseminated by various means regardless of its official confirmation or not.  The mere fact that the fire department has the ability to easily provide minute-by-minute news of their activities doesn’t mean that it has become a public right to expect that level of service.  However, the suggestion that “there are channels to go through for communicating with community liaisons in the event of a crime or emergency” seems to come from an earlier era.  By continuing the suggestion in saying, “perhaps they should simply put more resources into making those channels more appealing” seems to deny the notion that social networks already exist.  There may be fear that some will try to use these networks to start “flash mobs for senseless riots”, but technology is only single-purposed if the other half of the population decides not to use it at all.

One of the comments gave a very detailed example of how the @DCFireEMS Twitter feed was used by a local resident.  He claims that “earlier this summer I smelled a ton of smoke wafting into the open window of my apartment in the middle of the night.  I was going to call 911, but decided to check the Fire/EMS twitter feed first, and learned that there was a house fire a block away and it was under control, so I was able to just go to sleep and not bother the 911 staff.”  This is exactly the type of interaction that “Government 2.0” proponents recommend by allowing citizens to interact with their government in a meaningful way precisely when it is needed.

The barrage of mostly negative comments flew across the social media this morning and finally a new story reported “The Party’s Still Going: No ‘Filter’ For FEMS Twitter Feed” saying that Pete Piringer, the PIO originally authoring tweets, (and a new assistant) will once again be sending tweets without any official “filter” to control it.  This development was said to be a “big win for local tweeters”.  I am more circumspect about the result however.  Certainly a major winner was the @DCFireEMS account who gained over 100 new “followers” in the time it took me to write this post.  I also think that the public has regained a useful service as they continue to benefit from the good work begun long ago in building communication with FEMS.  It is the process that I think has lost something.  How do we go from “social media is for parties” to “no filter required” in less than a day?  Perhaps this is an example of exactly the type of communication that social media can be used to explain – in dialog form as opposed to a press release.

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Social Media: The ‘Why’ Needs to Come First (Part 2)

In the first half of this two-part blog, I discussed the outwardly directed reasons for using social media.  Those are the reasons that relate to communicating a message from your organization to a specific audience.  Just like older media forms, social media provides a mechanism for telling your own story but without external filters and can fully leverage an intimacy with willing followers that is not practical in typical corporate messaging designed to “interrupt” an audience activity (think commercials during a favorite show or advertisements within an interesting article.)  Now we will focus on what this media can do internally to improve your business processes.

Listening can be just as important and valuable in certain situations as speaking can be in others.  If some important event is happening, you must be receptive for information being shared by witnesses or participants to that event.  This can be especially important for public safety entities.  Of course, filtering facts from fiction can sometimes be a daunting task, but actually it is really nothing new and erring on the side of caution by taking extra precautions can be more prudent than missing true statements by choosing to be ignorant.  Credibility of purported “eye witness” reports can always be called into question.  And healthy skepticism should always be used when reviewing social media posts just as you would with many traditional media accounts.

I often suggest that posts, particularly “tweets”, are like speaking in a dark room.  You cannot be sure who is really hearing your statements.  But similarly I equate listening to attending a conference or trade show.  There are many conversations happening, but at a physical event, I can usually only participate in one at a time and I miss all the others as a consequence.  In the virtual world, however, I have the ability to be “present” at many more conversations and to review them at my convenience.  Filters and queries allow me to be even more selective in this type of “authorized eavesdropping.”  As a result, I can learn even more in less time and with far fewer expenses provided that others are willing to share their thoughts and observations.

Fortunately social media has become an important outlet for many people and is not as limited by socio-economic differences as much as it is segregated by age.  For my generation, email has become a primary communication technology.  While it has only been mainstream for about 15 years now, email is already being shunned by younger generations who simply no longer use email in favor of communication through social networks instead.  For additional proof of the recognition of the effectiveness of social networks, the US federal government is beginning to use social networks to announce terrorist threat alerts.  Even as far back as the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, Facebook was already being employed by students to connect and share timely information.  More recently, events such as the protests in Egypt or the devistation of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan can be rediscovered by searching Twitter on hashtag terms such as #jan25 or #tsunami, respectively. 

There are useful examples of how social media is being used to connect community in order to supplement situational awareness at the Red Cross and the Los Angeles Fire Department.  Even at the Charlotte Fire Department in NC, their situational viewer can link directly to geo-tagged tweets around an incident to deepen awareness on the fireground by querying for social media posts in the area or using particular hashtags. 

Another significant example of strategic listening is made possible by the innovative smartphone application that connects heart attack victims with CPR responders and identifies AED locations which is only made possible through social networks.

So whether you are systematically building an audience for communicating a message or strategically listening to develop situational knowledge, social media can facilitate your goals.  But be aware that poor or improper execution in the social media domain can be fatal to your initiatives.  It is imparitive that proper guidelines are put in place and followed to ensure success.  There is a good article on the policies that local governments should put in place regarding the official use of social media.  And while there are many details to work out on how your initiative will function, it is important that the ‘why’ we become involved in social media comes first.

Why are you involved?

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Social Media: The 'Why' Needs to Come First (Part 2)

In the first half of this two-part blog, I discussed the outwardly directed reasons for using social media. Those are the reasons that relate to communicating a message from your organization to a specific audience. Just like older media forms, social media provides a mechanism for telling your own story but without external filters and can fully leverage an intimacy with willing followers that is not practical in typical corporate messaging designed to “interrupt” an audience activity (think commercials during a favorite show or advertisements within an interesting article.) Now we will focus on what this media can do internally to improve your business processes.

Listening can be just as important and valuable incertain situationsas speaking can be in others. If some important event is happening, you must be receptive for information being shared by witnesses or participants to that event. This can be especially important for public safety entities. Of course, filtering facts from fiction can sometimes be a daunting task, but actually it is really nothing new and erring on the side of caution by taking extra precautions can bemore prudent than missing true statements by choosing to beignorant. Credibility of purported eye witness reports can always be called into question. And healthy skepticism should always be used when reviewing social media posts just as you would with many traditional media accounts.

Continue reading

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Social Media: The ‘Why’ Needs to Come First (Part 1)

Since I started “doing social media” back in 2009, I have found plenty of great articles with tips covering the “how-to” and etiquette for lots of specific social media tools (here are some good articles on Twitter, Facebook, and video blogging use for instance.)  There is even an excellent post on overcoming social media roadblocks.  Likewise, I have also heard all those shocking statistics meant to build a sense of urgency for getting involved in social media.  (If you are not one of the 2.7 million viewers already, check out the Social Media Revolution video by Socialnomics to get you excited.)  But what I don’t hear nearly as much about is “why” we should be doing it as an organization or government agency in the first place.

This point was made quite clear to me as I sat in the only social media presentation available at FDIC in Indianapolis last month listening to a fine explanation of using the latest tools when someone from the audience raised his hand to say that Facebook and Twitter were banned at his organization and he was there primarily to learn why he might challenge that position.  It also struck me that he wasn’t alone.  The nodding heads showed that at least half of the audience in that room was there not to learn “how” to use these tools, but to leave with an understanding of “why” they should use them.  That moment felt a little like the Today Show hosts describing the Internet in 1994.   

A cynic may suggest that the reasons for its use not being discussed more often is because they are not yet clear even to those who simply enjoy cutting themselves on the bleeding edge of technology without the forethought of its application.  These “innovators” at the early end of Geoffrey Moore’s curve often face such descriptive abuse just as others before them faced at the introduction of email.  But I suggest that most of the stammering is really because the answer is so elementary.  These new social media tools are being used for the exact same reasons that the now older media of print, television, and radio have been employed.  It is all about communicating your story to a select audience.  But we must be careful in using this logic since that line of thought also masks the real differences between them. 

The differentiator in social media is both in how the audience is “selected” as well as in the intimacy and immediacy of communicating that message.  Older media forms broadcast a calculated corporate message to a broad audience in hopes of reaching just a few percent of a captive crowd through interruption.  Social media, on the other hand, builds personalized relationships over time through trust to grow a dedicated group of “followers” actively listening to an unfolding story.  While the direct “reach” expressed in numbers is often smaller for new media by comparison, it is a highly focused presence more accustomed to drive relevant action.  Social networks are hardly made from passive spectators, but rather they are often vocal activists that multiply “reach” by creating “amplification” of your message.  Social networks are also often imbred technologies in that they intersect with each other through cross-posting between various social media tools effectively increasing both reach and amplification beyond a direct following.

As Erik Qualman remarks in his video linked above where he poses the question, “is social media a fad?”, he states “we don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”  To this statement I propose four basic responses:

  • you can ignore it thinking that what you don’t know can’t hurt you
  • become a voyeur and simple listen to stay informed without sharing yourself
  • try to control the conversation to prevent any “off message” remarks
  • or honestly engage with a community through active participation.

Of course there are always costs and rewards for each position, but the greatest value, as shown graphically in the diagram below, is found through increasing active participation along with the level of cooperative engagement.

"Social Media Strategy Options"

Social Media Strategy Options

Another major distinction is that the presentation of your message, or thoughts, are direct to your willing recipients through social media.  You have editorial control of the media now in your hands instead of being at the mercy of the reporters filter or biases.  For good, or for bad, you are only a single step away from your listeners.  This also shows the danger of a potential mis-step in quickly losing that receptive audience.

Engaging with social media then, while achieving the same ends as older media forms in communicating a message, is inherently a very different proposition that requires a distinct implementation strategy and presence of mind.  The reward for taking this new route includes the direct communication of a message as well as the creation of personal influence.  An influence built on trust creating an authoritative presence that can drive relevant action where desired.  Still, this explanation provides only the first half of the answer of why we should be involved in social media.  The second half relates to the specific new functional applications created by social media which will be explored in my next post.

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Social Media: The 'Why' Needs to Come First (Part 1)

Since I started “doing social media” back in 2009, I have found plenty of great articles with tipscoveringthe “how-to” and etiquette for lots of specific social media tools (here are some good articles onTwitter, Facebook, and videoblogginguse for instance.) There is even an excellent post on overcoming social media roadblocks. Likewise, I have also heard all those shocking statistics meant to build a sense of urgency for getting involved in social media. (If you are not one of the 2.7 million viewers already, check out the Social Media Revolution video by Socialnomics to get you excited.) But what I don’t hear nearly as much about is “why” we should be doing it as an organization or government agency in the first place.

This point was made quite clear to me as I sat inthe onlysocial media presentation available at FDIC in Indianapolis last month listening to a fine explanation of using the latest tools when someonefrom the audienceraised his hand to say that Facebook and Twitter were banned at his organization and he wasthere primarily to learn why he might challenge that position. It also struck me that he wasn’t alone. The nodding heads showed that at least half of the audience in that room was there not to learn “how” to use these tools, but to leave withan understanding of “why” they should use them. That momentfelt a little like the Today Show hosts describing the Internet in 1994.

A cynic may suggest thatthe reasonsfor its use not being discussed more often isbecausethey arenot yet clear even to those who simply enjoy cutting themselves on the bleeding edge oftechnologywithout the forethought of itsapplication. These “innovators” at the early end of Geoffrey Moore’s curve often face such descriptive abuse just as others before them faced at the introduction of email. But I suggest thatmost of thestammeringis really because the answer is so elementary.These new social media tools are being used for the exact same Continue reading

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