Social Media in a Time of Crisis

In times of crisis, increasing amounts of people worldwide utilize social media as an outlet. Social media gives millions of users real-time access to information, helps them communicate with loved ones, and keeps them as informed as possible.  However, it can also evoke widespread fear.  With such quick access to information, media outlets have less time to confirm critical facts and consider the consequences of widespread distribution.  In this blog post, I highlight social media sentiment in response to the Boston Marathon massacre, in which it played a critical role.

News breaks. Authorities and first responders used Twitter to relay real-time updates. The Boston police department confirmed the explosion in a tweet at 3:39 p.m. ET and continued to send information via tweets throughout the day. People in the area reported losing mobile service after the explosions. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency sent a tweet telling people to try to use text messaging instead. Twitter users retweet AP, Boston Globe, CNN and other trusted sources. News quickly became viral.

Next, details start to leak. Runners post bloody, graphic images of Boston Marathon injuries. Similarly, runners also post video on Vine to show action shots of the blast. At this point, do a simple hash tag search of #Boston and you can find all of the information you need, in real time, on Twitter.

In response to the horrific images and video capturing the event, people around the world expressed their emotions. Most sentiment included shock and sorrow, sending prayers and love to everyone at the marathon. Others shared information on how to help and donate blood.

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On the flip side, people also used Facebook and Twitter as a way to vent feelings of anger. Runners expressed horror and fear. Others shamed news outlets for posting such gruesome photos of the event.

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After emotional reactions were expressed, people began to ask: “who is responsible?” We want justice. We want closure.

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But it’s not enough. A Saudi national was brought in for questioning. The New York Post reported that the man’s apartment was searched. However, it’s unclear as to what, if anything was found. Was this to calm the public? Some called bullshit and accused authorities of racial profiling. Today, the Saudi national was cleared of suspicion, according to Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

Furthermore, the demand for instant gratification and by-the-second updated news on Twitter is creating an unsettling margin of error in reporting. Since the time of the incident, many unconfirmed reports are being treated as gospel. What’s worse? Confusion abounds this afternoon around the Boston Marathon bombing case after multiple news outlets reported that a suspect was identified and either taken into custody or arrested.

According to New York Magazine: The Associated Press said a person was “in custody, expected in federal court,” while CNN and Fox News reported that an arrest was made, based on video images of the bombing site. NBC and CBS both reported that no arrest has been made, and CNN has since softened its once-definitive reporting. “Despite reports to the contrary there has not been an arrest in the Marathon attack,” the Boston Police Department said.

Reporting on breaking tragedies is about much more than simply informing the world what’s going on. It’s about helping people in dire need. That’s where Google’s Person Finder comes in, a project that lets people search for or provide information on those involved in a tragedy. Hence, it proved to be a remarkable tool in helping runners find loved ones.

Similarly, The Boston Globe created a Google form where Boston residents could offer their home to people from out of town who need a place to stay. Runkeeper and TIME helped Bostonians find places to donate blood.

Tell us: Do you think social media has been a savior in a time of crisis? Or are there too many inconsistencies in Tweets coming from the worlds most trusted news sources? Your opinions on this matter are highly valued. We highly encourage your comments below. 

How to Develop a Killer Social Media Content Calendar

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Drafting a killer social media content calendar is definitely time consuming. (If you want successful results) The important part is spending time more time focusing on big picture ideas and less time on formatting. Many social media managers struggle to get started on a content calendar because they worry about how it should look off the bat.

Step 1: Brainstorming ideas

Step away from your computer and find somewhere quiet with no distractions. All you need is a pen and paper. Begin by writing down every single idea that comes to your mind so that you don’t forget anything. These ideas do not have to be in ANY order; just keep writing until your brain hits a brick wall.

Does your notepad look like a schizophrenic mess? Excellent. You’re on the right track. Now it’s time to go back to your computer. Print out a blank calendar template that you can jot down ideas into specific dates. Begin to organize your ideas. Start researching upcoming holidays (official and unofficial) and events relevant to the brand’s industry. How will you engage your community around these events? What type of content should be created to activate your audience? How will you develop viral content around an event to position brand from competition? Which social channels will you utilize?

Different brands will obviously cater to different audiences. As a result, the content calendar should be highly targeted.  See below for an example of a social media content calendar for a celebrity gossip website.

September 2012 Social Media Calendar

Step 2: Developing Themes

When I was a social media for a celebrity gossip website, I researched anything and everything that is relevant to pop culture. For example, upcoming holidays, TV and movie premieres, celebrity birthdays, fashion and beauty trends, music, etc. From there, I developed social media franchises around each campaign. Let’s use the month of March for example.  Beginning my brainstorming list of March themes, I’ve included: Spring, rainbow, colors, St Patrick’s Day, Easter, Passover, March Madness, Spring fashion, TV premieres, etc.  From there, I developed a list of topics and questions to ask around each theme.  So far, I know I will be developing Pinterest boards around Spring fashion, emerald green accessories and Easter and Passover recipes. Furthermore, for Twitter, I’ve drafted a list of questions with dedicated hash tags that will drive conversation around all of my themes. On a daily basis, I am aware of the trending topics on Twitter and make sure to utilize dedicated hash tags to categorize and extend my reach. Similarly, I am retweeting and re-pinning influencer content to develop credibility.

Step 3: Ideating Campaigns, Promotions & Giveaways

Giveaways and promotions are an excellent way to encourage user generated content, brand advocacy and expanding social communities. As such, reach out to third party agency contacts to pitch ideas for a giveaway. Why partner? Most likely, you will have little to no money for a social media budget.  After all, if you can execute a successful campaign strategy that is 100% organic, think of the results you could produce if you had a budget!  Once you’ve secured a win-win agreement and swag for my giveaway, you can start planning the promotional strategy. When the vision, copy, timing, rules and messaging are established, run the idea past legal for approval. Once approved, collaborate with the production team to develop powerful promotional images for collateral.

Live Q&As and Google + Hangouts

Two more pieces of content to consider:  A live Q&A session with an industry leader hosted on a brand’s Facebook or Twitter page is a great way to increase engagement and followers.  Furthermore, Google + Hangouts can help your brand grow by:

  • Increasing SEO
  • Driving engagement
  • Launching a new product or service
  • “How to” videos
  • Interviews
  • Internal meetings and training

Step 4: Timing and Frequency

Depending on holidays and events, some weeks will have more content than others. Likewise, it makes sense to plug a promotion or giveaway into a week that’s less busy. Similarly, if you plan to roll out a Pinterest or Instagram campaign, be mindful of how much is on your plate that week.  To avoid working around the clock, there are helpful scheduling tools. HootSuite, Bit.ly and SocialFlow are three social media analytics platforms that enable a user to schedule posts in advance on social media platforms.

Step 5: Measuring Success: Analytics Reporting

Watching the results in growth and also what is popular in content via tools such as Google Analytics will give you valuable information for future editorial ideas. In contrast, you can also measure content that was unpopular and develop a better understanding of your audience.

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