Module 15: Social Media Lessons from Hurricane Isaac

English: Hurricane Isaac

English: Hurricane Isaac (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hurricane Isaac is on its way to landfall, and social media use is experiencing a surge of its own. There are three efforts that we’d like to draw your attention to.

1. New Orleans, Louisiana or NOLA has a @NOLAReady Twitter account that is followed by almost 4,000 people. They are using this account provide information to citizens about how to prepare, as well as to inform them of what the city is doing as the storm approaches. In fact, they tweeted over 200 times in the 24 hours leading up to Isaac’s land fall. Here are some example tweets:

As an interesting side note, the number of followers on the account does not tell the full story of how many people they actually reach. The TweetReach report on just 50 of their most recent tweets, indicates that they actually reach over 40,000 people. There is another lesson, though: they might have reached more had they included the word Isaac along with the pound sign (#isaac) in each tweet. Another question to consider:  What do you think about how each tweet highlights the Mayor? Good form or is that inserting politics?

(Exercise: Use the website to run statistics on how may people are reached with just one tweet with the term  FEMA Region 4. Tweet Reach is a good analytics site and can help your agency determine or at least demonstrate, the effectiveness of your social campaigns on Twitter. To run an analysis try the term: FEMARegion4 by typing it in the search bar. The report will give you a lot of information. Note what hashtag the region is using in their tweets about this Hurricane. It will take the site a moment to calculate. Enter your results in the questionnaire below.)

2. Google Crisis Map

As mentioned in Module 14, Google has quite a few tools that they bring to bear during a crisis. When an event is big enough Google will stand up a Crisis Response map.  The Tropical Storm Isaac Map provides an example of the many different layers of data are available on their maps, including American Red Cross shelter locations, as well as information from Federal agencies such as NOAA.The map, however,  is only as good as the data; for example, they provide shelter locations but it is possible not all of the ones listed are open for this event.

The map also includes some user-generated content including videos. By choosing the layer “Youtube Videos – Tropical Storm Isaac” the user is taken to a geo-located selection of videos created by people (although in this case it is mostly government agencies) experiencing the storm. For example, one of these videos was produce by Keesler Air Force Base, featuring Brigadier General Brad Spacy (see if you can find it)–he even promotes the Base’s Facebook page as a source of information.

Other map layers:

  • Public Alerts (including evacuation notices for hurricanes, storm warnings, earthquakes, and more.Source:,
  • US Hurricane Evacuation Routes (Routes of evacuation as collected by FEMA (HSIP Gold 2010). Source: FEMA)
  • Radar imagery
  • Cloud imagery
  • Storm location
  • Forecast
  • Wind speed
  • etc, etc,

One of the BEST features is that you can embed this map on websites that allow for html code. This blog, unfortunately does not allow for that.

3. American Red Cross–Seeking Social Media Digital Advocates

In an interesting spin on how to volunteer for the American Red Cross, on their blog today, they asked people to help from their living room–or wherever the computer is. Although some of the activities involve helping to raise funds online, most are only about raising awareness. In the #smem community we call this message amplification. Message amplification simply means that people repeat your message to their followers, which allows for it to be circulated to a much great audience than otherwise would be expected, therefore increasing the reach of each individual post.

Below are the instructions from the Red Cross for how to amplify their message on Facebook:

Use Facebook to inspire action for the Red Cross.”

  1. Go to and like the page
  2. Like, Comment, and Share items from the national Red Cross Facebook page and from your local Red Cross Facebook page every day.
  3. Click the Facebook “Like” button on the homepage of
  4. Share news stories and other content from You’ll find a Facebook share button in lots of places on our website.
  5. Add a Red Cross themed Cover Photo to your profile.
  6. Post one or most of these badges to your newstream to tell the world about your affiliation with the Red Cross.
  7. If you have a Facebook page (rather than a profile) you can add the Donate Tab to your page by visiting this URL: and choosing “Add to my page”

They also have instructions for amplifying their message via Twitter. They state: “Use your personal Twitter account to become a retweet advocate.

  1. If you have a Twitter account, go to
  2. Click Follow
  3. Check back each day and retweet or put in your own words the calls to action from the @RedCross account.
  4. Add a Red Cross themes background to your Twitter page”

There is no reason why public agencies can’t make the same request of their followers. If, for instance, all of the state or local government employees were enlisted as message amplifiers, think how far emergency messages could be distributed.

Your Turn


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