This article provides some suggestions on the use of social media and on line networking that CAER groups, interested in improving their effectiveness in communicating with their communities, might want to consider. As CAER encourages open and transparent dialogue and cooperation between industry and community stakeholders and as social media provides the tools to facilitate this interaction, I believe there are good synergies between CAER, social media and other on line networking tools.
In my last blog on about CAER groups social media and on line networking, I indicated I would write a follow up article with some suggestions for CAER groups to consider to help improve their effectiveness. As I worked on that article it quickly became apparent that there was just too much material for one article and one of the lessons we need to learn to communicate effectively on line is to keep ones communication short and simple. I have therefore changed my strategy and will issue several short articles.
My first suggestion is to direct readers to a source of information they should find educational when it comes to the use of social media in emergency management and that is the Crisis and Emergency Communication blog in PTSC-Online, an on line community for networking Canadian emergency management and business continuity professionals.
One of the pitfalls some organizations which use social media fall into is that they use their social media channels as a bullhorn. I have heard this criticism applied to emergency management agencies use of social media in particular. By that I mean they set up their accounts and proceed to send out messages without stopping to listen to what their audience is saying to them. This violates everything that I have learned and been taught about effective communication over the years so I don't know why folks thinks this strategy will work with social media. Social media is a two way communication channel and, as with any other conversation you plan to join, it is best to listen first before speaking.
A first step for CAER groups, or any organization for that matter, who want to consider using social media is learning to listen to what your audience is saying first. There are a number of tools available to help with this process and some of the ones I use are Google Alerts, Google Reader and HootSuite. Properly used these tools will provide some insights about your audience, how they are communicating on line and what they are talking about. Knowing what communication channels your audience is already using and what their issues are is a good first step. CAER groups may also want to check Facebook to see if their local emergency management agencies already have a Facebook page. Monitoring this page and participaing in the discussion there may be a good place to start.
I hope these points will provide CAER groups with some food for thought to help your CAER group move in the right direction to make better use of social media and on line networking. Please comment on this article to share your thoughts or suggestions which may be helpful to CAER groups.