Western Mass First Twitter Chat

Post by: Kim Stephens

On Monday Jeff Phillips and I  facilitated a Twitter chat and simultaneous phone discussion with WRHSAC stakeholders (the tweet below includes the hyperlink to the archive).

Although we only had a few folks participate, the conversation was quite good. Bob Labrie (@goshenBob on Twitter) who is both a first responder and the social media director with the Goshen Fire Department, asked this question:

He stated that he didn’t see how he could use this tool, which from his perspective seems geared for real-time information dissemination,  while he is responding. Jeff, who is also the Emergency Manager for Los Ranchos, New Mexico, noted how he has seen Fire Departments  use Twitter.

WRHSAC also tweeted about how they are using the platform:

In other words, Twitter does not have to be used every minute you are responding, but it can be utilized before and after an event to provide information to the community. But who has time to post to both Twitter and Facebook? The good news is that you CAN automate your Facebook and Twitter posts (although I don’t think this is ideal since the culture of the platforms is a bit different–no one puts hashtags in Facebook posts, for instance). However, it can be useful service for resource-strapped agencies.

The Lay of the Land

The discussion turned to another concern,  the usefulness of Twitter in general in Western Massachusetts: is there an audience?  This is an excellent point. It is really important to determine what Jeff calls “The Lay of the Land” which means not only finding who might be “listening” but also who the active social media users are in the community. Word of caution, don’t dismiss people based on their profession listed in their profiles. I’ve found that it often doesn’t matter if a person is a realtor, for instance; if they are active social media users they WILL be posting information after a crisis.

WRHSAC  made a great point about how to find local users.

@HilltwnFamilies  (Hilltown Families) is  “an online, grassroots communication network for families in Western Massachusetts. Connecting & supporting community through the common thread of our children.” I encourage readers to click on the hyperlink of their name to see the type of content they are providing to their 1802 followers. So who is following them? In order to find out who their follower are, go to their full profile and click on “followers,” although the word does not appear at first blush to be a hyperlink, it is.

Another approach to find who is actively tweeting in Western Mass is search through lists. For instance, click on Hilltown’s Lists and then click on List members. (Side note: Click here for a tutorial on how to use Twitter lists.) The Hilltown Families account is a member of 6 lists. One list, WesternMA_local, yields some great information about who is active in the area. Here is a tweet from one of the members:

I also found that someone in Western Mass is using PaperLi. Paper.li is defined by the company as a content curation service that enables anyone become Editor-in-Chief of their own news site and publish material  from content they find anywhere on the web. So your tweet could become their next headline. The title of the PaperLi in Western Mass is simply: “The Folks of #westernma Daily.” Click on the link, is there a story about your agency?


It is important to connect with these active Twitter users because they can become a great asset. During the preparedness phase, when not much is happening, it is harder to get people interested in your content.  For instance, if you want people to know about a public meeting to discuss hazards and vulnerabilities, active social media users in your community might repeat your message to their  large following…but only if you ask them to. During a crisis, you can enlist these active users to repeat your vetted and official content.

The next conference call will be this Thursday, December 20 at 11:00am. The call-in information has been emailed to all participants of the September 21 social media summit. If you need the number, let us know. The topic: how to monitor social media and why it is important. See you then!


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