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If you are new to exploring the intersection of Social Media in Emergency Management, you may wonder where to find some help. You may feel like you’ve walked into an ocean of information or a busy train station and just aren’t sure where even to begin.

Trust me, you don’t have to be new to the community to experience some overwhelm. It is a feeling that is common when there is a lot of information and a community of individuals who are all in different areas of their personal journeys and explorations with these communication tools.

Over the past 18 months, many people have met, chatted and connected with each other on Twitter over the Social Media in Emergency Management hashtag #SMEM, but like any community, we have all seven of the social media personalities in action.  And in order to find someone who can best help you in your journey, you should consider the following questions:

  • What do you need help in understanding about social media?  It’s nearly impossible to start a good conversation with “Tell me everything you know about social media.”  Consider what you wish to explore first.

  • Is your question about your personal use or agency-based implementation of social media?  There are many folks who have a great personal understanding of social media who have yet to tackle how best to implement these tools into their work environments.  By asking someone to tell you about how social media is used in their office, you will learn a lot about where people are in working through their workplace hurdles.

  • What perspective or voice are you seeking? Do you want to know how the general public feels about your question, volunteers, academics, vendors, public safety responders or emergency coordinators?  Everyone has a very different proximity to emergency events and you will receive diverse answers based the experiences of the person you are chatting with.

  • When you are watching someone on Twitter, do they have a background in emergency response?  Every profession has its own language, methods and practices.  And while the practices may require significant updates, in many respects, it can be difficult to change some practices overnight.  Understanding the history, authorities and requirements can be key to making progressive advances over time.

  • How does your defined “expert” engage in social media?  It is important to consider how people treat others online.  Are those you follow supportive, welcoming of new people and open to sharing ideas?  While emergency services often attracts passionate, Type A personalities who aren’t shy about sharing their opinions, it is interesting to evaluate whether people can remain spirited about ideas or whether they engage in personal attacks.  There is no excuse for personal attacks ever.

There are many amazing and helpful people working in a variety of different professions, education institutions, private sector technology vendors and volunteer programs that share information under the #SMEM community tag.  The world of social media is still new enough that you have to be cautious about who you see and define as your “experts.”  Everyone has a perspective and sometimes it is important to consider that perspective when looking for help with your important questions.

We are a patchwork quilt of people who simply want to figure out how social media can and should be used during emergencies.  Let’s remember that it wasn’t so long ago that we entered the train station without a clear destination in mind.  While we may know how to hop trains now, we owe it to each other to help those who may not be sure how to read the map.


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