How social media can help, and not hinder, during a crisis

Demand for hyper-transparency
A big challenge with social media audiences is that they seem to feel they have a right to know anything and everything about a crisis and the people and organizations behind it. Withholding information or hesitating to update the public risks being seen as a cover-up.

Action steps

Create a “listening post”
A “listening post” is simply a term for the electronic platform used to synthesize news across all types of media, including traditional print, blogs, and Twitter. It is a way to learn what people are saying about a situation in real time. Administrators and faculty can use the following tools to help feed a listening post:

  • Google Alerts – eMail reports that track news stories, blogs, and more, based on search keywords.
  • Twitter Search and TweetBeep – websites that act like a Google Alert equivalent for Twitter. They monitor discussions occurring in the Twitter realm.
  • TweetDeck and Seesmic – desktop applications that allow you to monitor Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, as well as Twitter.
  • Social Mention – a search tool that also tracks content from YouTube and Flickr, in addition to Facebook and Twitter.

Monitor emerging threats
Social media often are used as a place to share thoughts or vent, and diligent monitoring might allow schools to identify emerging problems, spot disgruntled students, or address risks before they become a crisis.

Incorporate social media in crisis planning
Be sure to include a tactic for addressing social media in the school’s crisis plan—and stick to it. Through the combined efforts of faculty, the communications team, and outside crisis counselors, schools should be able to address trouble areas, share accurate information, and calm those involved.

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