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This past week, a number of people attended the first Social Media in Emergency Management Camp (#SMEM11) at the National Emergency Management Association Conference (NEMA) in Virginia. 

If you didn’t attend the NEMA Conference or SMEM Camp, here are some great blog posts that have summarized the fun:

While conferences are fun and generate a lot of energy, the real work begins when you return home to your organization.  Have you ever had the experience of trying something out at a store and finding that when you take it home, it’s much more challenging than your experience on the showroom floor?

Just about everyone in the world of social media has had the following conversation.

  • You:  “Hey, I learned about these great new tools and how they might help make our office more efficient or make us more situationally aware.”
  • Your Boss or Employees: “Glad you had a great time learning about that, now it’s time to get back to work.”
  • You:  “I think we should incorporate some of these social media practices in our office.”
  • Your Boss or Employees:  “Okay, good luck with that project” while offering little to no organizational support.  And ultimately, they will figure out a number of reasons why it might not be a good idea… 

Don’t be discouraged.  It’s really important to be patient with yourself as your familiarize yourself with social media concepts.  None of the people, who are actively using social media tools, learned them overnight.  And I have yet to find a business or organization who adopted clear policies and practices within weeks of deciding to use social media. 

Here are some simple steps to guide your continued learning:

  • Familiarize yourself with the “Getting Started” page here at www.sm4em.org.   
  • Consider what your goals are in social media.  What is it that you’d like to do using these tools?  Some ideas might include: better situational awareness, developing relationships with other professionals in your field or even just learning more about what different tools have to offer.  Your goals will guide what you need to learn.
  • Use the Google Search Bar very liberally.  Feel free to plug in questions based on your goals to guide your reading about different types of tools.
  • Consider monitoring social media.  A previous article was written here about how to do this.  
  • Find a mentor in your community or online.  In many communities, people are holding “tweetups” to find other people who are using social media.  Mashable wrote a good article about how to find your local Twitter users that is worth reading.  Additionally, you might check to see if you have a local Social Media Club chapter in your area. 
  • Expose yourself to additional educational opportunities in the near future.  If you are in public safety and emergency management, there will be several opportunities to “tune in” for more learning. 

Additional Learning Opportunities include:

The biggest key to learning about social media is truly having an inquiring mind and the patience to thoughtfully consider your agency needs as you implement these tools. 

Just don’t let yourself walk away from this, or any social media conference, in a state of overwhelm or feel discouraged at your first sign of resistance from your agency or jurisdiction.  Many of us have walked in your same shoes and are living proof that social media can enhance our abilities in this profession and specifically during times of crisis that we will face in years to come.  

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