Social Media Collaboration to Improve Emergency Communications

This post originally ran on the eduWeb Digital Summit Blog.

Words you never want to hear as a social media and emergency communications manager on a college campus: Shooting on campus. Hard words to type, to be honest. But, in reality, these are words every campus in the country has to be prepared for.

It’s a matter of when, not if, unfortunately.

Breaking Down the Silos

It's Time to Break Down Silos, Especially When it Comes to Emergency Communications. It's About the Safety of Students. - Allison Matherly, Texas Tech University

Often universities and colleges are siloed environments. There are lines in the sand, areas that “aren’t my responsibility” and political land mines that many of us are dodging on a regular basis. Many social media managers aren’t directly involved in emergency communications, but they should be. It’s time for this to change, and there’s no reason for them to sit and wait to be asked to join the team.

Social media is often one of the fastest ways we have to communicate with our campus communities. Our students are connected to it all the time, and people are trained to go to brands’ social media channels to look for updates, especially during a breaking situation. If our communities are already trained to look to these sites, we need to be respecting the power they hold, and harnessing that power for communications good.

Social media managers are trained to edit messages quickly, they’re used to releasing information to large audiences regularly, and they are the individuals reading community feedback. Why would universities not want to involve these people in their emergency communications?

I know, I’m preaching to the choir. (Thanks for those heavenly tones in the background, guys.) You all know what great skills you bring to the table. But, it’s also time for us to get over those silos and fences and lines in the sand. So, what are the next steps to start this process? Keep reading…

Entering New Territory

Apple iPhone with Social Network App Icons Displayed

It’s time for social media managers to cross the lines, armed with smart phones.

Google for the win! Start off finding where your campus keeps their emergency management resources online. Read the university’s plan, understand what your department’s already existing role is within emergency communications. By starting there you can learn more about how to start getting involved and contributing.

The next step is to schedule a few meetings with the individuals involved in emergency communications outside of your department. I’d recommend starting with the head of emergency management or public safety (depending on what you call it at your institution). Ask if you can find out more about the institution’s emergency management plan, processes and who’s responsible for what actions. Explain that you want to be involved and be ready to support their efforts. There’s not an emergency manager who doesn’t want better communication.

Meet with the chief of police and the police department’s public information officer at your campus, or city, depending on your school’s size. Meet with the people responsible for the emergency mass notification system, this one lives in a lot of different places, so you might have to search a bit. Know the people involved, know what their responsibilities are, and know what their goals are.

Next step is to offer to assist. Explain what your role at the campus is, and the communication skills you can lend them. Often, law enforcement and emergency managers see social media as just another place that trouble pops up. Show them what can be done to assist their efforts. You can bring examples with you, or make sure to send them examples as a follow up to the meeting.

Don’t Stop Believing

Just like any other relationship in your life, this one will take time. I speak from experience. It takes a long time for trust to build and for everyone to rely on others. But, when that happens, you end up with a well-oiled machine of information sharing, effective communications and teamwork. (Insert rainbows and unicorns here.)

Getting Down to Brass Tacks

Rainbow over a field.

Ok, so it’s not always rainbows and unicorns.

At the end of the day we’re talking about students and campus safety. These are people’s lives that are at the core of this discussion. You might be facing an uphill battle breaking into the emergency management group on your campus. But when that if becomes a when, and you find your campus in the middle of an on-campus emergency, you’ll never regret taking that step to improve communications.

Retweet After Me: Dec. 16, 2014

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A New Yorker’s Take On Swarm by Jordan Crook

When foursquare split its app into two and launched Swarm, I decided to take some time to get to know it before sharing some thoughts. As a New Yorker who has never been sold on social location apps, I’m pleasantly surprised by its ability to make me act, remember to use it, and to create the possibility for great experiences. That goes far beyond what any app like it has managed to do — for me at least. [Read More]

Retweet After Me: Week of Oct. 14

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The Best (And Worst) Times to Post on Social Media (Infographic) by Rachel Gillett

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Provocative Ad Campaign On Pause by Kaitlin Mulhere

A Boston-area university has pressed pause on an ad campaign launched this summer that was described as bold and provocative. Suffolk University made noise in July when it began a campaign that described the small, private university as anti-elite and a haven for hard-working students. It was the university’s first broad campaign in eight years. [Read More]

Pinterest to Offer Targeted Pins, Tracking for Advertisers by Kevin Allen

Pinterest is stepping a bit closer to helping its retail advertisers understand their actual ROI. Publications have inferred the social media platform’s revamped advertising plan through some of its updated privacy policy documents; chief among these updates will be the ability for advertisers to directly target those Pinterest users who are already customers. [Read More]

Could Ello be the next Facebook rival? by Kevin Allen

Tired of being shown all those spammy ads on Facebook when you’re trying to figure out what your friends’ kids are up to? Do you wish there were a social platform that didn’t treat you like a piece of metadata? You’re not alone. Ello has been getting considerable attention recently, and we can almost guarantee your parents won’t use it. The service is opening to new members by invitation only. Invites for the service have been sold on eBay for up to $500, according to several reports. [Read More]

Turn Marketing Negatives into Positives

p00spsw7

Stuff happens. We can’t control it, and even when everything has been planned out, things will still go wrong at times. And we can use these situations to our advantage.

Negative Comments

People will have negative things to say from time to time, whether it be because a student got a parking ticket, or a student wanted to give feedback about programs at the university, you will hear opinions. Turn these negative comments into positive ones by helping your audience members understand things and fix situations.

A student who feels they’re not represented well on campus provides the chance to set that student up with a meeting with the president to make sure he’s heard. By helping each individual person who tweets or posts, you are changing their relationship with the university, and once you do that, they’ll feel more connected. The bigger the brand advocate, the more they’ll sing your praises.

Mistakes

We’re all human, and we make mistakes, so when they happen, own up to it. Apologize, and make the situation right. As the social media or community manager, a lot of times these mistakes may have nothing to do with you, but your audience member doesn’t care if it was your department or another one. They just want a solution, and to know that someone cares about making it right. So do just that. Make it your problem, find the solution and make it right, even though you didn’t have anything to do with the original issue.

Negatives Turn Into Positives

It’s amazing how the smallest things can make negatives turn into positives. Fixing situations, understanding and listening to your audience members can have just that effect.

Quotables: Brian Solis

“Social media spark a revelation that we, the people, have a voice, and through the democratization of content and ideas we can once again unite around common passions, inspire movements, and ignite change.”

-Brian Solis, Engage!

 

Growing and Nurturing an Audience

social media flowers

Recently, I’ve experienced a recurring theme of people asking about how they can use social media to inform people, to promote their event, or because they just need a Facebook or Twitter page. And yes, social media can be used to inform people and promote events and programs, but that’s is not what they are about. They are about conversations and relationships. And don’t even get me started on having social media channels just for the sake of having them. But your audience members take some nurturing to grow, so give them a little water and sunlight and they’ll grow into thriving, engaging members of your community.

Take the Time

Just like an taking the time to pick up the phone and call an old friend, you need to take the time to find out how your audience is doing! This can be accomplished by asking them, monitoring relevant hashtags, or by listening to what they’re flat out telling you. You can then gauge their feelings and talk to them appropriately. Talking to students during the summer is different than during finals week.

Truly Listen

I’ve talked about truly listening to your audience before, but I’m going for it again. Sometimes you think you know what a problem is, or what an audience member is referencing, but if you jump to conclusions you could miss someone’s point quite easily, especially if you’re on Twitter and have a 140-character post to work with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or take the conversation to email if you need more information to understand what your audience member is trying to tell you.

Engage

Your audience wants to know you care. In higher education, that can be as simple as congratulating newly admitted students, answering questions about when food locations are open during spring break, or offering to answer questions of prospective students. Tell your audience you’re there for them in whatever capacity they need.

Story Time

I heard University of Cincinnati’s @PrezOno speak at EduWeb last year, and he told a story about a student who was upset that the vending machine was out of Cheez its. He listened to the complaint, and said he would find out why the vending machine was empty. And he followed through. His audience understands that he’s there for them, and reaches out regularly. He provides a perfect example of how to listen and engage with your audience. You can see this and more of Santa Ono’s presentation in the SlideShare below:

 

Retweet After Me: Week of Feb. 25, 2014

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Quotables: Zoe Barnes

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Social Media Lessons to Learn from the Olympics

The world is currently head over heels in love with the Olympics, and who can blame them? Sports most people don’t see except for every four years, high stakes, and rooting for your country! And NBC has their social media team going full force on the NBC Olympics social media channels, with lots of good tips and ideas for the rest of us!

Photos Win Facebook

There is not a post on NBC Olympics’ Facebook page that doesn’t have a photo. According to this Fast Company article, 93% of the most engaging posts on Facebook have photos. Not only does NBC use photos, but they also brand every last one of them with their blue border and Sochi logo, making sure that when it’s shared, the branding is still just as evident.

Spur of the Moment

NBC Olympics has done a great job of taking advantage of situations as they arise. Obviously, the nature of the Olympics means they are waiting for the perfect moments, from announcing a Gold Medal to featuring athletes as they prepare to start competing, so they are set up already to use the random things that they aren’t anticipating.

User-Generated Content

It’s an easy tactic, but no doubt it’s effective. Asking for your audience to participate in the fun by answering a question, submitting a photo or filling in a blank is a great way to encourage engagement. Also, you can’t go wrong with using the unsolicited content, that’s the stuff social media dreams are made out of!

Create Your Own “Meme”

Normally, I hate when I see this. Most of the time, I just don’t think it’s a great fit for the brand or the content they have used. Now, I know this isn’t technically a meme, but it has a meme-like feel by using big, to-the-point words, and showing one subject in the photo. However, since NBC didn’t try to make their content fit into an already existing meme, I actually really like it!

Artsy Fartsy

NBC obviously understands that Instagram is a little bit artsier than Facebook and Twitter, and their content on the channel has been just that.

Diversified Content

One of the most noticeable things when I was looking through NBC’s Olympics social media channels is how very different the content is on each channel.

Twitter is very centered around news-like content, such as events starting soon announcements, medal counts and winners and feature stories. But just because it’s more news focused, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a personality!

Facebook is probably the most fun content they have. While all the other channels they are utilizing defintiely have a feeling of fun and excitement, their Facebook content takes it to the next level. They are posting things that are easy to share and the most exciting or stunning moments of the Olympics.

Instagram, as I already pointed out, is much more artsy. Because of this, it makes you think you’re getting an inside look at the Olympics: how the courses look before an event and practice runs.

What is your favorite part of Olympics social media coverage so far?