Category Archives: Facebook

Module 10: Facebook Comments, A Case Study

Reposted with permission from iDisaster.

Having the ability for people to post comments to your Facebook page can be an invaluable opportunity to get direct feedback from the community. In the past, people were really only able to talk openly about  your response effort by sending a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. Now, they can tell you exactly how they feel on your Facebook page. This ability, however, has a lot of folks in the emergency response business a little nervous. What if we get people commenting who say foul things about our organization or how we are handling the incident? How do you respond to irrational comments, untruthful information about what your organization is doing or hurtful remarks? One lesson that we in the social media and emergency management realm have always preached…don’t worry–other, rational citizens will respond for you.

The Facebook page for the Barry Point OR Fire can serve as a case in point. A seemingly innocuous post simply providing a picture with a caption “New Incident Commander..talks to crews…” elicited this comment:

The adminstrators of the page, however, didn’t have to argue with this woman or even acknowledge her terribly insensitive, irrational comment. Why? Citizens responded for them with statements such as:

  • Seriously, I cannot belive you had the nerve to post that.
    A few days ago a young girl lost her life protecting your towns, your forests from complete destruction. I know crews who have been on this fire from the flare up working 16 hour days in the heat lugging 50 pound packs and chainsaws trying to keep it from destroying everything in its path. They are getting 4 hour rest periods to sleep.
  • Shame on you. And to all of the hard working men and women who are putting your own safety and well-being on the line for the communities, thank you, thank you, thank you. Be safe!
  • ..not only is what you said disrespectful, untruthful and condescending, but I can’t even take it seriously as your post is riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors.
  • AMAZING! Our children, my child, is out there everyday protecting the homes, families and land in that area and you have the nerve to post something like that. They work theirs tails off! If they play a little hacky sac they probably deserve a break! You have balls lady.

It goes on and on. The naysayer tried to argue back, but her voice was drowned out. The only response required from the page administrators was this acknowledgement and reminder of their comment policy:

The reminder of the comment policy is important. People might wonder why the administrators didn’t simply delete her comment. Deleting it, however, would be completely counterproductive. She would most likely start a rant on her own Facebook page or even go so far as to produce a blog that was solely designed to rant about the response. Although she still might do those things, by leaving the comment for all to see, as well as the responses from the community, her stature  is diminished and she is not able to elevate herself to a martyr status, e.g. “I am the one whose voice was stifled!”

If you have an example of this happening to you, I’d love to hear about it. And good luck to all the firefighters out there this summer. You all are in our thoughts.

Your Turn


Module 9: Facebook Content Strategy Development


All clip art in Discovery Education’s Clip Art Gallery created
by Mark A. Hicks, illustrator

Objective: To gain an understanding of how to develop a content strategy.

What the heck am I supposed to post?

Now that you have your Facebook page for your organization and have (we hope) determined who is responsible for updating content both before and after a crisis, the question becomes: “What do I post?” We will discuss what kinds of content should be posted during a crisis in another blog entry, but most people struggle with a content strategy when there isn’t too much going on.

Step 1: Set a goal.

Having a good idea of what you are trying to accomplish with your page (in other words–your goal) will help you decide what to post. The goal for your page will help your organization determine everything else.

Steps 2-4 Determine: Audience, Purpose, Focus

Keep three things in mind:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What is the purpose of my organization being on this social site, and the purpose of the content I am providing?
  • What is my focus?

Step 2: Who?  This question is fairly easy to answer for government organizations–the audience could be the entire online population in the community. However, you might want to determine if there are pockets that you can reach, specifically.  Why? A message meant for everyone might not appeal to anyone. For example, if you know, based on site statistics, that most of your “fans” are women, then provide preparedness tips that interest them: see Women’s for some ideas, such as “Emergency Planning for pregnant women and new mothers.”

Also, read this great article: How to Include Diverse, Vulnerable Populations in Emergency Preparedness. One tip:  if you have members of your community that are deaf, make sure that any posted videos are accessible. This might require transcribing the video and posting the transcript as a note on the page.

Note: Not all of the content development has to come from you! If you see another state or EM agency or organization that has produced something cool–link to it. This is very easy to do, simply type your comment in the “Status” box, on top of the prompt “What’s on your mind?” Then copy and paste the URL into the status box as well. It ends up looking like this above. You can use google alerts to send yourself an email that includes links to content about what is new in emergency preparedness–everyday if you choose. Follow these simple instructions on how to do that.

Another important item to remember–people like to see themselves and their community members reflected in the page. Ask folks to send in pics of their activities and/or add pics of your own. In the social world–pictures are king. Keep in mind that you can also post videos to Facebook. People respond to multi-media content much more favorably than flat text.

How do you know you are reaching your target audience? As the page administrator, you can see who is “liking” your page. The advantage to being in a small town, is that you probably know quite of few of these people. If you realize that prominent city officials, such as the school principal, hasn’t “liked” you yet, or deaf community members haven’t become a fan, then simply reach out to them with an email or in person and ask for some feedback.  Did they 1. know about the page and 2. if so, why they aren’t following? Be prepared to adjust your content based on their feedback.

Step 4: What is the purpose?

You will need to fill in this sentence: The purpose of our Facebook page is to____________.

The purpose could be as simple as to provide timely information related to news about your organization, event information, disaster preparedness tips, and/or alerts. Defining your purpose will then help you determine the types of content you choose to distribute.

However, you might find that your audience, or at least the people that interact the most with your page the most, is response community partners. Some organizations tap into this audience by providing updates about training and  disciplined-focused articles. If you find that mixing the two types of content is somewhat confusing for the public, you could consider a Facebook group for response community members.

Step 5: Once you have established your purpose–your focus should be straightforward.  If your purpose is to provide preparedness information (for both able-bodied and individuals requiring additional assistance), information about your organization, as well events related to your community–then the focus of your posts should be those topics.

Step 5: Coordinate with Other Agencies or Stay in Your Lane

Where organizations get into trouble is when they provide content a little bit out of their focus area: if you are a government agency, coordination is key.  For instance, in Maryland one emergency management official became upset after the public health director constantly posted emergency preparedness tips to their own Facebook page (seemingly more related to the EM than Public Health). Another example, the Washington DC Fire Public Information Officer caused some turf battles when he posted content to the DC Fire Twitter account that was directly related to law enforcement. How can this problem be mitigated?

Have a community-wide plan!

Set a meeting with other response agencies that are also using social media and discuss what you all will be posting as a city. Use the September Preparedness Month as a reason to do this. Ask this question: What will be our coordinated preparedness messages?

It is also good to discuss with non-social agencies what preparedness information  they would like to have highlighted. For instance, the public works department might not need or have a facebook page of their own, but they do want people to be reminded occasionally about where to plant trees (not under power lines–not near water lines) and how to trim trees to prevent damage during snow storms, etc. Bottom line: if you discuss a content strategy with all of your emergency support functions in advance, you can at least reduce the possibility of confusion and increase the opportunity for collaboration.

Your Turn

Module 8: Facebook Page Features and Tips


Objective: Provide an understanding of features on Facebook Pages.

When Facebook changed to the timeline format, there were some new features added that are not always fully understood and/or are underutilized. Below we highlight a few of them. Mashable–an online magazine devoted to social media, first posted these tips. We recommend you peruse their site often for very helpful up-to-date information. See also Facebook’s own info page on their design here: The New Design for Facebook Pages.

1. Pin Posts to the Top of Your Profile

On the post you want to promote, click on the Pencil icon on the top-right, then select Pin to Top. That post will remain at the top of your timeline for seven days, or until you pin another post.

Why is this important? During a crisis, or any dynamic situation, the flow of information is rapid. On Facebook, when you post something new it is automatically placed on the top of the feed. However, you might want critical information, such as evacuation maps or shelter locations, to be the first thing citizens see. This feature allows you to do that. Only one item can be “pinned.”

2. Reposition Photos

Reposition photos you’ve posted to ensure they look as great as possible when people are browsing your timeline. Again, you will be doing this by clicking the Pencil edit icon on a post. Select the Reposition Photo option and move the image around within the frame. Hit Save when you’re happy with how it looks.

Why this is important? Pictures aren’t always perfect. A little flexibility regarding the position of the shot goes a long way.

3. Turn Off Messaging

Although the ability for people to message your page can be vital during a crisis, it can however, become a nuance if the page becomes a spam magnet.

Go to Edit Page on the Admin Panel at the top of your display, then select Update Info and Manage Permissions.

Now look for the Message option. If you want to remove the messaging function, uncheck the box next to Show “Message” button on your page.

4. Share Other Facebook Pages to Your Profile

If you want to highlight other community pages , you can “Share” them to your  profile. Go to the page you want to share and click the Cog icon on the top-right.

Click Share and you can post a link to the page, along with any comment, to your page’s timeline.

Why is this important? During a crisis you will want to highlight other pages that are posting good content relevant to the event. This could be a new community volunteer page or a local government page. By sharing it with your followers it not only brings attention to the content, but also demonstrates collaboration. With luck, they will share your page as well.

5. Create a Poll 

You can ask your followers questions. The poll feature is built into the timeline design.

 To create a poll, click on the Event, Milestone + option in the Status box at the top-left of your profile. Choose Question.

You can ask an open-ended question, or if you click on Add Poll Options, you can provide set answers on which people can vote.

Why is this important? Getting feedback from your page followers is a daily activity–simply by monitoring comments. But are the comments reflective of what everyone thinks? By creating a poll, you can gain information from more people, provided they answer. Sunderland Fire was disappointed by the fact that few people responded to poll showen above, even after the page administrator pinned it to the top of the page. However, that low rate led him to believe people weren’t interested in the question “Should we post calls to our page” and therefore he stopped posting calls.

6. Highlight posts

To make a post more noticeable you can highlight them, meaning they stretch across the double width of your timeline.

To do this, hit the Star icon on the top-right of the post you want to enlarge — it will then become highlighted. To change a post back to normal size, or to make a Milestone post smaller (as these are automatically highlighted), click the Star icon again to Remove from Highlights.

7. Edit Your Favorites Boxes

You can change the order of some of the boxes that appear beneath your cover photo.

Click on the Down arrow that appears to the right of the boxes to see the edit options.

The Photos box stays in place, but the others will either display a Pencil icon or a Plus sign. Click on these icons to either swap the boxes around or add in more apps — such as videos — to your favorites section.

8. Create a Featured Likes List

While it’s easy to “Like” other pages and brands, there’s a cool way to highlight these “Likes” to visitors to your page. Once you’ve “Liked” the pages you want to highlight, go to the Edit Page option on your Admin Panel. Select Update Info, then Featured from the menu on the left.

Click on Edit Featured Likes, then you can choose the pages you’d like to feature. Click Save and these pages will rotate in your “Likes” box toward the top-right of your timeline. 

Why is this important? As you “like” pages related to your community, you should keep the most relevant public safety organizations at the top of the list.

9. Make Use of Your Activity Log

If you want to find a past post quickly or review certain types of content, rather than scrolling down your timeline, use the activity log as a quick tool.

 To access your activity log, click on Edit Page, then select Use Activity Log. Your activity log displays a time-ordered list of every kind of activity on your page, back to when it was created. Clicking on the All option at the top-right of the page lets you narrow down the content displayed by type, such as info updates, comments, posts by others, etc.

10. Remove the “Recent Posts by Others” Box

You may not want to draw attention to recent posts by other people to your timeline. If this is the case, remove this box all together. Head to the Edit Page option on your Admin Panel. Select Manage Permissions.

Next to Post Visibility. Uncheck the box that reads Show the box for “Recent Posts by Others” on the top of [Your Brand].

Your Turn

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

Related articles

Module 6: Facebook–Setting up your Personal Profile

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Objective: To provide information about how to set up a personal profile as the first step to setting up a public page on Facebook.

I’m guessing that all participants of this training have heard of the social networking service called Facebook. There are, however, quite a lot of nuances to using the site effectively for organizational purposes–and specifically for use in emergency preparedness, response and recovery information dissemination. For this module, we will simply address how to set up your personal profile, which is the first step in establishing a facebook page for your organization or agency. In subsequent modules we will provide some examples to demonstrate why organizations should this particular tool and how to do so effectively.

(If you cannot access Facebook via your government or workplace computer, you will have to complete this module on your home computer.)

Why do I need a Personal Profile?

Reason 1: Facebook is tricky–they require anyone who wants to set up a page for their organization to first have a personal profile. What’s the difference? Facebook states:

Profiles (timelines) are for personal, non-commercial use only. They represent individuals and must be held under an individual name. Pages are for professional or official use, and allow an organization, business, celebrity or band to maintain a presence on Facebook. You may only create Facebook Pages to represent real organizations of which you are an authorized representative.

Pages are managed by admins who have personal Facebook profiles (timelines). Pages are not separate Facebook accounts and do not have separate login information from your profile (timeline). They are merely different entities on our site, similar to how Groups and Events function. Once you have set up a Page within your profile (timeline), you may add other admins to help you manage this Page. People who choose to connect to your Page won’t be able to see that you are the Page admin or have any access to your personal account.

Reason 2: In order to fully view all content on Facebook, you have to have a personal profile. Facebook does allow you to view landing pages, however, if you want to do a search on Facebook you have to be a member. For example, I can click from the Boston Police Department’s website to their Facebook page, but the search bar within the page does not appear until I log in. Also, if you want to comment on someone else’s post, you will have to have a profile of your own. Why would you want to comment? After a disaster, what if you stumbled upon a volunteer organization’s Facebook page and saw that they were directing people to drop off donated items at the Fire Station? Your reaction should be to correct that information as quickly as possible, which could simply be done by clicking “comment” and stating: “Please do not drop off items at the Fire Station. We have set up a donations drop of center at location XYZ.”

To see what first response organizations are already using Facebook in your county click on the link either in the toolbar at the top of the page, or  below:

 Setting up your profile

To sign up for a brand new account, enter your name, birthday, gender, and email address into the form on Then pick a password. After you complete the sign up form, Facebook will send an email to the address you provided. Just click the confirmation link to complete the sign up process. 
Note: We often hear people lamenting that they don’t want a personal profile because they have no interest in updating their information or connecting with their old high school classmates: in short, they are concerned about privacy. Facebook is a public forum, however, you can do several things:
  1. Choose not to post anything to your personal wall–even if you are a public page administrator that does not mean you have to actively update your personal profile;
  2. If you do want to post a few things you can choose who you share them with. Facebook tells you how:
    1. “Your controls are right next to each thing you share. Use the audience selector to choose who can see what you’re sharing. The audience you choose appears along with whatever you are saying. You can also use the tool to change who you are sharing with after you post.
    2. Have something you only want to share with a few friends? Send a message,create a group, or share with a friend list of your choice.
    3. Read this “Tutorial About Sharing
  3. Be more comfortable with the privacy settings. Know and understand the truth behind the myths. Facebook states the following:
    1. Do advertisers have access to my personal information?No, Facebook’s ad targeting is done anonymously by our system, without sharing personally identifiable information with advertisers.
    2. Does Facebook sell my information? No. You have control over how your information is shared.
    3. Can others know when I view their profiles (timelines)? No, Facebook doesn’t currently provide an application that allows people to track profile (timeline) views or statistics on the views of any specific personal content. Third party developers, however, may …
    4. Can I know who’s viewing my profile (timeline) or how often it’s being viewed? No, Facebook does not provide a functionality that enables you to track who is viewing your profile (timeline), or parts of your profile (timeline), such as your photos. Third party applications also cannot provide this functionality.
    5.  What personal information is shared with sites that use social plugins? None of your information

Your Turn

This module’s task is simple. Set up your personal Facebook account and then go to the WRHSAC’s Facebook page. Click “Like” and then comment on their first post  about “” that states the following:

WRHSAC has a website and facebook site dedicated to providing information about personal emergency preparedness planning to citizens of Western Massachusetts

In your comment, casually mention your discipline but not necessarily where you work (e.g. Firemen welcome you to Facebook” so that we can aggregate your points). This task comes with a huge reward: 50 points!


The New Design for Facebook Pages