Operational social media listening

If the bad guys can monitor social media during a terrorist attack …shouldn’t you be able to do the same thing in a crisis or disaster ?

Recent events have again demonstrated the absolute necessity for organization to monitor social media during incidents or crises. This goes well beyond using social media as a communications tool  (althought it’s a great start). The mall attack in Kenya has given another (albeit a rather unpleasant one) argument for the benefits of active social listening.

It’s not only the bad guys that get this … The Boston bombings earlier this year highlighted the effective use of social networks by local authorities..

It’s simpl,e really. News breaiks on Twitter … comments and opinions … witness accounts, follow almost instantly … as we saw with what happened in Washington near the Capitor Building today.

Other organizations recognize the need to monitor social media to gather more info and get a better operational picture. Frankly, they either do this or run the risk of being marginalized.

I had the opportunity in the last few months to lead a project on behalf of Agincourt Strategies, and collaborating with two key experts (Gerald Baron and Bill Boyd), to provide a social media monitoring training program for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

It’s now an imperative for organizations in all fields, public or private, to have the ability to stay abreast, minute by minute, of any crisis. To do so, they must monitor social media and for the following five reasons:

  1. emergency information/messaging validation: how are your audiences reacting to your messages?
  2. identifying reputational threats? what’s being said out there that could negatively impact public perception of your response/actions in a crisis … and hamper your ability to fulfil your mandate?
  3. Routing calls for help or assistance through the proper channels …we know people will use social media to call for help in a disaster … few, if any, public safety agencies are ready for this …yet they must have a plan in place to do it …
  4. detecting and countering rumours: a critical function of any social listening operation … in fact, probably the most important aspect at the onset of any crisis.
  5. finally, gathering info (pictures, videos, tweets, posts) that provide you with a better idea of what’s going on … adding to your comprehension of an event.
This five-part rationale for social listening during a crisis serves everyone to some extent: a PR crisis, an emergency response, a public health risk …. It’s essential because the world now moves at the speed of Twitter … Sees the story unfold through Instagram or Youtube … and provides ongoing comment on Reddit …