Is Social Media Alerting Necessary?
In a word... Yes! But there are a lot of traps you need to be aware of.
What are the pros?
This is the short list with three major points. First, lets look at the list:
Easy... that's always a captivating allure. Just throw some stuff up on facebook and when we need to, we can post messages out to our community. Any one who has done this for more than 5 minutes will tell you, it's not that easy. You need a plan and you need to make a commitment to that plan.
- Easy to reach most of your audience
- If you build it, they will come!
- Wait! Did we say there were three?
In this case, its very true. "If you build it, they will come!" In times of emergency, people seek out information and they prefer to have that information from a trusted source... YOU! That's the good part. The bad part is that your social media page could be over run with request for information or feed back. Running public notices on your web server? You could see your web traffic go from just a few hits a day to a 10,000% increase (yes, TEN THOUSAND PERCENT!) Are you ready for that kind of traffic? Do you have a plan? Staffing? We know, we know... these were supposed to be the pros and if that scares you, just wait until you see the cons!)
What are the cons?
The cons are many and when you really read through them you realize that you're stuck between a rock between a rock and a hard spot. But lets go on and look at the list:
These are just the obvious cons and there are many more that you will learn about as you venture forward with social media.
- People... ALL people but especially younger people EXPECT you to read what they post on your wall or they tweet to you. This means that you're expected to monitor your social media and it also means that you need a policy in place and people need to understand your policy.
- Internet access is not always available. SMS (text messaging) is the most reliable form of electronic communications. It works even when cell towers don't (witness the recent cell outage in southern California. Days without cell service but text messaging was still up and running).
- Posting to your wall does not guarantee the users will get the message. They have to friend/like you and AND keep their settings updated so that they receive your feeds.
- Using programs to post on peoples walls is dangerous. Most people have their kids as friends and if you post about a home invasion or rape, that post will appear on their kids feeds and that would cause you all kinds of problems
- You could generate extra traffic and work for the user. Every post to a users wall results in an email to that user and remember, it also exposes children to information that may not be appropriate
- People become desensitized. When you're posting about an emergency on one side of your jurisdiction people in another side get tired of reading about it and start ignoring all the messages. They then miss the message that would save their lives!
- People tell us in every survey, they don't want to have to check FB to find out what's going on. People have told us "When I'm in my cellar waiting on a tornado to pass, the last thing I am gonna do is check facebook!"
- Too many sources of information to keep up with. Who has time to check city pages, county pages, state pages, federal pages, weather pages etc. etc. etc. This forces the user to spend too much time seeking out information and that informational "hunt" exposes users to inaccurate sources.
- You have to promote it! Regardless of what method you use, you have to promote ALL alerting methods or the word will not get to the people you want to protect!
Remember that rock and hard spot?
Well, we don't believe in kicking an officer when they're down but guess what (yes, now would be a good time to cover your shins!), people actually EXPECT you to have a social media presence. In Emergencies, people don't just want information, they DEMAND information and if you're not providing it, you look incompetent. Not exactly what you want.
Does it get worse?
We thought you'd never ask! You have to consider the alternative: Lacking any form of "official information" people will fill in and believe what ever information is floating around, accurate or not, safe or not. The information obtained will get absorbed and used (witness the evacuation from the dome in New Orleans).
What's the real solution?
Obviously, we want you to use our service and we want you to use our service not only because we only have one item in that long list of cons (you have to promote your alerting method to your masses) but also because we're the most reliable form of messaging available and we make it easy for you and your users to send and receive alerts. We are a single source of alerts from participating city, county and state agencies PLUS we carry all the FEMA alerts. Our network is state of the art and even with the earthquake, hurricane, flooding, road closures and every thing eles going on in the north east AND the fires in Texas, our system was only running at a small fraction of its capacity.
Join now and make NeighborhoodWatchAlerts.com a part of your personal safety program.