Module 7: Getting Started with Facebook Pages


Objective: To learn how to set up a Facebook page for a first response, emergency management, government or public health agency.

Facebook Provides a “How-To”

There are a lot of guides available regarding how to use Facebook, however, one of the best is from Facebook itself titled: “Building your presence with Facebook pages: A guide for governments.”  If your organization is ready for a page, we recommend you print the guide and follow their step-by-step instructions. You can download the document by clicking here: Facebook Guide for Governments. The guide covers the following topics:

  • Setting your strategy
  • Creating your page
  • Developing your posting plan: finding your voice, creating a conversation, offering a rich experience, sharing exclusive content
  • Growing your Audience
  • Measuring and Refining
  • Resource Links (all internal Facebook links)
  • Top 5 Tips (These tips, by the way, are great. I love #1 “Don’t be boring!”)

Not so Fast!

Before you download the guide and set up your organization’s page, we would like to specifically address what to expect after a crisis. Quite a few people do not realize how much attention their social media pages will receive after a disaster strikes their community: you should expect anywhere from a 500%-10,000% increase in page views. Why? Citizens want…

  • Dynamic content (people are looking for up-to-date information and websites often do not offer that flexibility);
  • Hyper-local information: the news media will often only provide an overview of the situation but will not or cannot provide information about specific neighborhoods or even small cities;
  • The ability to ask questions and get answers in almost real-time;
  • The ability to see what’s happening. Lurkers–people from all over the country–will view your page to see what has occurred, even if they have zero affiliation with your town. The more national media attention the story receives, the more hits you will get on social media pages.

Key Questions

The public will have expectations that since your organization has a Facebook page that it will be updated during a crisis–and often. (Don’t believe that a little disclaimer stating that the page will not be updated will suffice.) On a positive note, by updating often you will gain the public’s trust, on the flip-side, by not updating, you will gain scrutiny.

Particularly, if your organization is the city’s law enforcement or fire service (since these pages are expected to have emergency information) the following questions need to be addressed before a page is created:

  1. After a crisis, will this page be the voice of the city?
    1. Do local political leaders know about this page and are they willing to use it for crisis communications or will another page be used to disseminate crisis information?
    2. Will the town be willing to provide a prominent link from the homepage to this Facebook page?
    3. Will the town be willing to include a Facebook feed from this page on the city’s homepage after a crisis if it is being used as a prominent place to post content?
  2. What other related organizations in your community have a social media presence: law enforcement, fire, public health, elected officials — volunteer organizations?  Should you join forces  (or even with the entire city government since most Western Mass cities are very small) and have one Facebook page? Or does your organization prefer to go it alone? (See this blog post for more info.)
  3. What staff are available that can help administer the page after an event?  Ensure these people will not be busy with direct emergency response activities after a crisis. Determine:
    1. Who is the primary administrator?
    2. Who are the first and second back-up administrators?
    3. Do back-up administrators have opportunities to use these tools on a weekly basis in order to practice?
    4. Are back-up administrators empowered to post on behalf of the city or organization?
    5. Did we consider shift changes in order to staff the page for longer than 12 hours?
    6. Are there any volunteer organizations or individuals that could help with our social media presence during a large-scale event (e.g. FireGround 360)?
  4. How will comments be handled in a crisis?
    1. Are comments from the Facebook page (or other social media sites) being compiled each day (or set time) in order to give decision makers an understanding of public perceptions?
    2. Where does this compilation go?  The Mayor, Town Administrator, Incident Commander–all of the above?
  5. Where does the content for the page come from?
    1. What process are in place for getting content to the page administrator(s) in a timely fashion?
    2. What clearance processes are required? Can these be streamlined in order to meet the expectation that information is updated quickly?


Personnel resources are often one of the biggest concerns for small cities when deciding whether or not to use social media.  Chief Vincent Caruso of the Lodi Police Department in New Jersey provides a few lessons from his experience during Hurricane Irene. Read the entire account here, but specifically relating to resources,  he had one major word of caution: Be Ready!

Trying to keep a steady flow of information and also monitor social networks for comments, @ messages, and rumors is labor intensive. The Chief acknowledged that being the sole purveyor of social media content was almost too much for one person. He basically worked 48 hours straight during the height of the storm. When he was away from his desktop computer he kept an eye on the official accounts,  answering questions  and posting updates, from various mobile devices.

However–he did find the tools very useful:

  • Posting information to social media platforms reduced the call volume. Chief Caruso indicated that by using social networks, he saw a marked reduction in inquiries to 911 and to his station phone.
  • Social media did allow LPD to gain situational awareness from citizens. People posted information about downed trees and wires on the Facebook page–often with pictures. Others posted or asked questions about rumors, such as:  “Where is the tornado?” This was actually considered a plus since he was able to respond on a public forum for everyone to see.

Your Turn

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