Tag Archives: youTube

Using Storify to Monitor Social Media

Post by: Kim Stephens

In this post I will discuss what information can be found on social networks during a crisis or emergency event, and one tool that can help make sense of it all.

Image representing Storify as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase


Storify is a free website people can use to curate posts from many social media platforms, add their own commentary, and then publish that collection as a story. This site only became open to the public in 2011, but it has emerged as go-to source for some journalist during emergency or disaster events.  Just the ability to search multiple social networks in one place makes it worth investigating.  (Curation might be a new term for some folks in the context of social media, but it simply refers to the act of choosing the best example(s) to represent the mass.) The Storify website explains the process:

1. Search for content: In the Storify editor, the user can search social media networks to find media elements about the topic they want to “Storify”. The user can look through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram and more to gather material for the stories.

2. Curate the elements: Drag and drop status updates, photos or videos to bring together the social media elements that will best illustrate the story. The user can always reorder elements, or delete them if they find something better.  More items can easily be added later on. The story is always editable, so you can pull in the latest from the social web.

3. Write your own narrative: A Storify story [gives the author the] opportunity to make sense of what you’ve pulled together. You can write a headline, introduction and insert text anywhere inside your story. You can add headers, hyperlinks and styled text. Build a narrative and give context to your readers.

Content: Southern Storms Provide an Example

The December 20th, 2012 weather event that impacted some areas of southern Alabama and western Florida provide a good example of not only what can be seen on various social media platforms,  but also how to find and collate that information…even while an event is unfolding. You can view the Storify that I created about the storm here: http://storify.com/kim26stephens/tornado-damage-images-shared-on-twitter

Before the Storm

On the Storify site content  is sorted in chronological order with the most recent posts appearing on the top of the list.  By scrolling back in time one can see that in the alert and warning phase information is posted about the whereabouts of the storm, its strength, as well as what protective action measures should be taken. On the 20th, this content was disseminated via Twitter  and  Facebook  from official organizations, but it was also amplified by the news organizations as well as concerned citizens.

Twitter posts are short and to the point, but Facebook allows many more characters to describe what citizens should do. The City of Brewton, Alabama provides an example:

Recommended actions: A Tornado Watch remains in effect until noon CST Thursday for Southwestern Alabama and Northwest Florida and Southeast Mississippi. Excerpted from ready.gov: Before: Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan. Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms. Look for the following danger signs…. (This post goes on and on about what to do and what to look for. It is worth noting that sometimes shorter is better since people under stress have a hard time processing information).

radiostationAs the storm approached, radio stations posted on Facebook the locations that could be impacted. Stations use social media to promote their business but also to provide pertinent  content, such as alert and warning information, in written form. This could be a resource for people that are deaf or hard of hearing.

As I stated in my Storify, maps were also tweeted and posted to Facebook. Once a map is on a social network people can view it on a smartphone app–no longer do they have to make their way to a TV screen to see what is happening. (Years ago, before Twitter existed, while living in Tennessee I spent many days huddled in my basement during tornado weather wondering what was going on.  I’d run up to check the TV and then run back down to safety. Why? Radio announcements mention place names, but I was new to the state and the location names, absent a point of reference, were lost on me.)

After the Storm

As the storm passed a location, citizens, volunteer organizations and news outlets immediately posted images and reports of damage. Even a local Red Cross chapter reported being struck and a citizen provided a picture.


This was a fairly fast moving system so it was interesting to see watches and warnings cancelled in one area and then quickly posted in others.

The Tweet below was sent out by the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Although I’m sure it is not his job description to warn citizens of impending weather events, the fact that he is amplifying emergency information from his account is interesting.


Storify is tool that can not only help you or your organization find information, but collect and organize pertinent content from all over the social web. This resource can be quite handy during an emergency event to quickly surmise what people are seeing.  You don’t even have to create your own story to take advantage of the service. As I mentioned, journalist use Storify and often, as I found on the 20th, are creating stories of the situation that anyone can view. Other similar websites that pull content from multiple social sources are Paper.Li and Scoop.it.

Give these curation tools a look and tell me what you think.


Module 19: Blogging for Public Health and Safety Organizations


Objective: In this post you will learn why your organization might consider using a blog and learn how to determine which platform is the best choice.

Blog Machine

Blog Machine (Photo credit: digitalrob70)

What is a Blog?

The CDC provides this definition in their Social Media Toolkit:

Blogs, or web logs, are regularly updated online journals that almost anyone with an internet connection can use. Some blogs target a small audience, while others boast a readership comparable to national newspapers.

Blogging has been around for a long time, relatively speaking in the social media world. With the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, YouTube etc. some people thought blogging would fade away, however, other social networks have actually increased the amount of traffic to blogs, not vice-versa. Why?  Blogs are part of the social ecosystem. If your organization has an “integrated social ecosystem” it means that all of the content posted on each platform points to and supports the other. For example, if you write a blog post, some people may find the article by clicking a link you provided in a Tweet–in turn, other people may realize you have a Twitter account by seeing the Twitter feed on your blog; folks found your blog by clicking on a link from your website; they found the website by watching a video you produced on YouTube.

Does all of this seem a bit redundant? Couldn’t you simply post everything to one platform? We are not suggesting that you have to participate on each of these social sites, however, each one does bring unique ways to provide information to your community and increase the chance that people who need the content will see it. Nonetheless, deciding to blog should start, at a minimum, by answering these three questions:

  1. What are the benefits to our organization for using this form of outreach?
  2. Do we have clear goals and objectives for this tool?
  3. Do we have the resources to support the use of this platform–e.g. who will write the content?

Top Five Reasons to use a Blog

Standing up a blog site to disseminate public health and safety information can provide several distinct benefits:

  1. A blog provides a place to discuss a topic that may be too complex for other channels and to give your topic or program a more personal and engaging presence than a website allows. (Source CDC)
  2. Since comments can be reviewed before being posted it can be considered a less risky platform;
  3. You can choose a free blog site with easy-to-use/easy-to-learn user interfaces (free attractive themes as well) making them a good alternative to expensive websites (see the Western Massachusetts Disaster Animal Response Coalition as an example–their site was built using WordPress).
  4. It is easier to update a blog versus a website–which is an important consideration for crisis communications. Furthermore, some blogging platforms (such as WordPress.com) are mobile ready, meaning you can  post from your iPad or iPhone, Android or Blackberry.  The blog also looks quite nice to viewers via these same devices.
  5.  Analytics are included–allowing you to understand if you are reaching your audience.

Public Safety Example


This wordpress.com blog “Wild Land Fires” was stood up by the USDA Forest Service  and cooperating agencies during the summer of 2012 to provide information from the incident managers in charge of each fire in the region, which includes South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado and Kansas. The site also included statewide and region-wide content. The purpose of the blog was to offer citizens a comprehensive, interagency look at wildland fires.


The content included maps (an example from the site has been embedded on the right), updates, and links for detailed information about individual fires. Each listed state had at least one active fire, most had more than three.  For example, by clicking on South Dakota, the user could choose between the White Draw Fire, the Highlands Fire or the Crow Peak Fire.

This was a bit of an experiment by all involved since no interagency “social networking/collaborative” project of this nature had been tried before. I interviewed the project lead, Kris Ericksen, PIO for the Portland National Incident Management Team (a full time Incident Management Team), and she provided some great insights to how and why they decided to use these tools. She indicated that the blog, as well as all of the associated social media sites (Google+, a Twitter account, as well as a Facebook page) were stood up for the response because it is now an expectation of the citizen. She said “We are living in a refresh button world. People expect you to be listening and to answer their questions.”  She acknowledged that this is difficult for some public safety professionals who are used to message control and sometimes fear what the public might say.

Why did they use a blog and other social sites when they already had inciweb? Answer, because these sites allow you to post and host things that inciweb cannot, for example, high resolution maps and podcasts, to name two. Furthermore, inciweb does not have a feedback mechanism–by using social media, you are building interactions, and hopefully, trust and credibility, with the community.

There were a few limitations, however, with the free blog site. For one, although the maps could be loaded and viewed, the ability to provide interactive maps was restricted with the .com versus the non-free .org version. They also learned from this effort about best practices regarding how to organize the blog and what templates to choose (there were some complaints, for example, about the black background).

Of note, they did place the blog in a social ecosystem–as mentioned, all of the other social sites they were using were linked to the blog (which they highlight on the “Welcome” landing page) and when a new blog post went up it was Tweeted out, linked to on Google+ and mentioned on Facebook.

What platform is best?

There are several blogging platforms:

The two I would recommend are: Blogger.com ( a Google product) or WordPress.com (the site you are currently viewing is on wordpress.com). Each one has pros and cons, but the technology is quite similar. Ultimately it is your organization decision, but HowTo.gov (a federal site) recommends following these guidelines when choosing a tool:

  • What are your overall goals, budget, and technical capabilities?
  • Decide whether a particular tool is affordable, fits into your current infrastructure, and gives you what you need to meet the goals of your blog.
  • Do you need a hosted or stand-alone blog?
    • Hosted blog: a company provides the space to store (host) your blog. Blog hosting may be free or fee-based, and each company may offer a different array of services.
    • Stand-alone blog: you host your blog on your own network. It allows great freedom to customize your blog, and gives you full control of the design; however, it is more complicated and costly than a hosted blog.
  • Will your blog be written by one person, or multiple authors?
    • Multiple-author blogging might have different requirements, such as separate accounts for each blogger.
  • Where will you post?( e.g. Do you need a tool that allows remote posting, from mobile devices, etc.?)
  • Does the tool comply with government policy–such as Section 508 accessibility guidelines, to ensure it’s accessible for people with disabilities or  security policy–to ensure it’s in a securely hosted environment?


  • Follow this link to see features of WordPress: “Getting Started Support.”
  • The video below, How to start a Blogger.com site, gives you a quick overview their platform:

More resources:

Module 18: The “Lay-of-the-Land”

English: Nashville, TN, May 5, 2010 -- Nashvil...

English: Nashville, TN, May 5, 2010 — Nashville resident and disaster survivor Amy Frogge uses social media to display pictures that document the flood and damage to her home in Davidson County. FEMA is responding to the severe storms and flooding that damaged or destroyed thousands of homes in May 2010 across Tennessee. David Fine/FEMA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine a disaster has just struck your region, maybe it is a wildfire that has crossed several fire districts, a tornado that has touched down in several communities, or a hurricane that has caused extensive flooding; whatever the situation, organizations and citizens across the impacted area will be using social media to talk about the event and to look for information.

From the perspective of your response organization, you can obtain valuable content from response partners via social media that you would not be able to determine otherwise, even by using WebEOC.  It is worth noting, for example, that most volunteer organizations (with the potential exception of the American Red Cross) do not have access to WebEOC in order to update their activities. Increasingly, these same volunteer groups as well as spontaneous volunteers,  are posting what they are doing on their Facebook page and Twitter accounts.


In order to take advantage, or even make sense of content posted on social platforms, you have to find it first.  It is ALWAYS best to determine the “players” before a disaster occurs: you would not want to be exchanging contact information with other responders after a crisis–that same principal applies to social media usage. This process, finding who is using what social platform, is something we call determining the “lay-of-the-land.” By completing a lay-of-the-land you will have a much better picture of who can help spread your message, understand and identify potential collaborators, and understand who might provide content on these platforms  during a crisis–who you should be “listening” to.

There are two overarching steps–#1 find social accounts by using the search process we have outlined below and then #2, share your curated list with other response partners so that they are not re-creating the wheel.

Step 1: Find Local Social Media Accounts

Where to look?  For the Western Homeland Security Region we have started building a “Lay-of-the-Land” already. Look above at the tabs “Web-Based Communications by County” as well as the tab State and Regional Social Media links. The list of hyperlinks can be copied and pasted for your own use, or you can copy and paste from this google doc (anyone with the link can view the Google doc but cannnot edit it. If you have an addition or deletion please let us know in the comments section below.) These lists contain every social site we could find that relate to the 10 homeland security disciplines. We have even provided a link to the main website of each community or city.  We will be adding more news organizations and volunteer groups as the information becomes available.

How did we find this information? There are numerous ways to find who’s using social media in your community:

  • Start with websites: Are there any social symbols on the city’s or organization’s landing page?  Check each agency’s page because, for example, the Fire Service might have a Facebook, Twitter and YouTube “connect” button, but the city’s homepage might not.
  • Visit Facebook pages of similar organizations and agencies:  once you find one agency, or an organization such as the Humane Society or the local hospital, select “See All Likes” (provided they have enabled this feature). Agencies and organizations will often “Like” each other, finding one can lead to similar groups.
  • Do a search in Facebook: this is especially useful after a disaster event because volunteer groups often form  (e.g. Monson’s Street Angels) and event-specific pages are also stood up. I often use the town’s name in the search, or the name of the event.
    • Activity–search the term “Hurricane Isaac” in Facebook. What did you find?

There are many ways to search Twitter, specifically:

  • Find the popular hashtags used in your community.  In Western Massachusetts the tag most often cited is #WesternMA–especially for general information (currently there are several politicians including that tag in their tweets). Once you find the hashtag it is easy to see the most active participants.How do you find popular tags? There’s an App for that!
  •  Go to the Twitter page of an organization or person you trust, choose “Lists” and look for lists that apply to your organization. FEMA, for example has a list titled “Local Emergency Management Agencies
  • Look at  MEMA’s Twitter page, who do they follow that you should consider following as well? Check other organizations or trusted sources to find who they are following.

 Step 2: Share the information

Make your “Lay-of-the-land” accessible in an easy-to-view format for others to see and use, such as the maps we included in the blog. Or at a minimum, post the content in a Google Doc and invite other response organizations to the document. You can also create your own Twitter lists.

If you want to formalize this process during an activation, you can develop a Modified Social Media Communications List (ICS 205A). (The hyperlinked example can be copied for your own use. This document cannot be edited, but your copied version can–simply choose “File”, “Make a Copy”). The ICS form 205A was developed in order to record methods of contact for incident personnel. We have modified this form in order to record all responding organizations (including volunteer) social media pages and accounts.  This form can function as an incident social media directory.

Good Luck! If you have any questions or comments please let us know. 

Module 16: Video Content Distribution Basics

Please take 15-25 minutes to complete this module. (This module is quite long–so there are no associated tasks.) 

Objective: To understand the basics of video content distribution and how the service can be utilized for crisis and preparedness communications.

What is a video sharing service?

According to HowTo.gov “Short videos are used to communicate all kinds of information by way of websites and popular online video-sharing services. Government agencies use video to convey how-to information… scientific and cultural resources, and news.” You do not have to be a registered user to see content on YouTube or Vimeo, however, you do have to be registered with these sites in order to upload videos.  YouTube, LLC was bought by Google in 2006, and now operates as a subsidiary of Google.

Did you know? YouTube has a US Government “channel” with aggregated video content from all government agencies. The videos are listed in categories, such as “Health and Nutrition” and “Public Safety and Law.” It also has a “Featured Channels” list that provides a quick link to channels such as CDC Streaming Health and HHS.

Three Reasons Why It’s Important for Emergency Management:  

  1. Eyes: According to Tech Crunch, as of January 2012, YouTube had 4 billion views….per DAY!
  2. Stickiness: Adding video content to your website or blog increases the time people spend on your site. According to emarketer.com“Virtually 60% of respondents said they would watch video previous to reading text on the same webpage, and 22% said they generally liked watching video more than browsing text…” In other words, if you have video they stay, if you don’t they leave.
  3. Ability to Share: Video content produced on either Vimeo or YouTube is highly shareable. The viewer simply clicks “Share” and is given the choice of posting the entire video to any of the most popular social networks. There is also an “embed” option. For example, the video below has been embedded on this blog, and people can click on the video and then share it to their own Facebook page. (You do have to choose “Watch on YouTube” in order for the share options to appear.) The ability to share also means that your agency can search for preparedness videos created by other organizations and then share them to your own network. This video, created by the City of Houston with funding from DHS, was widely circulated on social sites by other emergency managers and has been viewed over a million times. (Notice closed caption option only appears when watching on YouTube.com.)

Video can be used to effectively communicate both preparedness and recovery information. As an example during the devasting tornado season of 2011 FEMA created this video below about debris clean up. Granted, people might not have been able to view the video if their homes were destroyed, unless they had a smart phone or saw it in the relief center. However, because it is shareable, there’s an opportunity for friends or family members of those impacted to see it on social networks and discuss the information with their loved ones.

Furthermore, now that the content has been created, it can be embedded (as I did below) on websites that discuss disaster preparedness and recovery so that people can see the content before a crisis. Your agency can post this content  to your own webpage, blog, Facebook page, etc.

Other uses after a disaster: 

Post disaster, not only are “how-to” videos created regarding recovery information for citizens, but “What’s happening” videos are also appearing more frequently. Ideas:

  • Upload videos of press conferences–this allows people to view the entire thing (in 10 minute segments) not just what the press decides to show.
  • Video tape responders in action–this content can be posted to your   other social sites, such as Facebook, and demonstrates what activities you are accomplishing–again, bypassing the media as the messenger.
  • Post videos of damage to prevent people from doing “disaster tours” in person. After a crisis people tend to be voyeuristic (in Monson after the tornado there were traffic jams due to people coming to see the damage) they want to see what happened. Creating a short video that shows the damage can allow people to understand what occurred, will help provide context (e.g. why recovery is taking so long) and might encourage donations; hopefully, it will also discourage site-seeing. See this video below from the Joplin Independent School District as an example of this.


Watch this “how-to” screen cast from the International Association of the Chiefs of Police” sponsored by the Department of Justice.

Accessible Communication. It's the Law!


According to the Massachusetts Social Media Legal Toolkit: “Agencies using social media sites must provide a link on the landing page to the accessibility policies, if any, of their third party social media host.  Prior to securing a social media identity, agencies must assess and either correct, or provide an accommodation for, any significant accessibility issues associated with the social media site. Regardless of the accessibility of the third party host’s social media tools, agencies remain responsible for ensuring that the content that they post online, either from their own employees or external social media users, is accessible.”

How to make videos accessible is not necessarily an easy task.  YouTube itself has this guidance:

How to create captions and subtitles on YouTube

Captions and subtitles are the dialog of a video in written text format. Sometimes they also include information to help folks follow the dialog, like descriptions of music, phones ringing, and other sounds in a video’s audio track.

Captions and subtitles help make videos accessible to a wider audience by helping folks – especially those who are hard-of-hearing or who speak a different language – understand the audio track to follow along. Captions are in the same language as the video’s audio track while subtitles are in a different language.

You can add captions/subtitles to videos you’ve uploaded. It’s optional but strongly encouraged to make your videos available to as many people as possible.

For more information, please see the following Help Center articles:

Another Resource: Ohio State University’s Web Accessibility Center provides a good “how-to” do captioning which you can find here.

Official Policy Seal

Consider: Policy

Massachusetts: STANDARD EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY (Excerpt from exhibit 3 From the Legal Toolkit)

Insert this language below on your YouTube channel or your website.


To both increase transparency and save money on video hosting and streaming, [INSERT AGENCY NAME] publishes all of our video content, including press releases and to our YouTube channel at [INSERT URL TO YOUTUBE CHANNEL] and embed the videos back on our site.

The [INSERT AGENCY NAME] is responsible solely for the content uploaded to the official YouTube channel, and not for any related videos or linked videos linked from other users, nor for any advertising or other content contained on the YouTube website.

Also note that this video share is hosted by YouTube and is governed by YouTube’s separate website policies, including its Privacy Policy [HOTLINK TO PRIVACY POLICY] and Terms of Service [HOTLINK TO TOS].  These policies apply to your use of YouTube.  For questions, please contact [email contact at agency where user can request information].


privacy (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Consider: Privacy

When posting video content on public platforms, such as YouTube, privacy issues can be a huge concern. As a Google post points out: “.. exposure can be risky to the citizens shooting the footage and the people who appear in their videos.”
There is help with this problem. YouTube has a new face blurring tool “that represents a first step toward providing visual anonymity in video.” Although this  feature was designed with videos of activists in war-torn counties in mind, it will also help when posting content, for example, with children whose parents refuse to sign the release form (a sample release form can be found in the legal toolkit–Exhibit 8) or when obtaining a release form is not possible.


This is a lot of info. We hope you will use this page as a resource in the future if you are not ready to stand-up a channel today. Good luck!

More Resources:

Module 3: Social Media Policy–Citizen Conduct and Comments


This module specifically looks at policies directed toward citizen conduct and/or comment policies. We will discuss the other necessary policy components in following modules. 

Learning Objective

To gain an understanding of social media comment policy and how to write terms of use for your social sites.

Before jumping in the social stream, your organization should:

  1. Determine  “terms of use” for citizens visiting your social sites;
  2. Define internal response protocols for negative comments and inappropriate posts;
  3. Determine  how  your organization will listen to and moderate the conversation to ensure inappropriate comments are detected and deleted. (We will discuss monitoring tools in future modules.)

When building a social media presence the goal is engagement: getting citizens to comment and participate in a conversation. Citizens, however, don’t follow a script nor do they always make appropriate comments. This necessitates defining and being upfront about your expectations and what actions you will take when people violate your stated policy. It is also important to remember, however, that if someone is being critical of you, your organization, or your elected officials, that doesn’t mean you should delete their comment. The fact that you are on a social site means your organization is going to risk getting both positive and negative feedback. See this handy chart from the US AirForce (page 7) about how to handle negativity. For instance they suggest: “When you speak to someone who has an adversarial position, make sure what you say is factual and respectful. No arguments, just correct the record.

In general, when writing “Terms of Use” you should:

  • Prominently state that the site is not being monitored to provide emergency services or assistance or for crime reporting;
  • Detail what kinds of content is allowed or is advisable for users to post: whether or not photos or video are allowed  (this involves personal privacy protections and copyright laws); and for sites that deal with health topics, no personal medical information.
  • Explain that users cannot post advertisements or spam;
  • Detail what you will do if something inappropriate is posted, including deleting the comments and potentially blocking the person from the page;
  • Explain and/or link to applicable laws;
  • Explain that by using the site, users unconditionally accept your terms and conditions of use;
  • Provide information about what part of the organization is monitoring the page;
  • Explain that third party links do not represent endorsements.
  • Explain that Records Retention Law might require records created or received by employee be preserved.

There are a couple of other things to keep in mind. You cannot pre-approve comments on Facebook, they are posted immediately for everyone to see until you remove them: this necessitates your organization proactively monitoring the page. Blogs and YouTube, however, do have settings that allows pre-approval of comments.

Follow Examples

Agencies new to the social scene, or even ones that want to improve, can look to other government agencies or public health organizations as models. There are many great examples to choose from. Below are some snippets that demonstrate the key points above.

–The Boston Police Facebook page provides a good example of how to be  upfront about expectations and terms of use. They state in the “about” section on the front their Facebook page: “Comments to this Web site will be monitored and we reserve the right to edit for obscenities.

–The United States Courts YouTube comment policy also outlines expectations: “Comments are moderated, meaning all messages are reviewed before appearing. Please show respect toward others and keep comments civil.”

–The Toronto Police Service Facebook page “Terms of Use” explains who is monitoring the page and the purpose of the site:

This is an official Facebook page of the Toronto Police Service (TPS) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This page was created to provide people who live and work in the Greater Toronto Area, or others with an interest in the TPS, access to information about the TPS and a platform to interact with the TPS. This page is monitored and managed by the Corporate Communications section of the TPS.

Massachusetts General Hospital, “Guidelines for Participation in Mass General Social Media,” does a good job discussing the kinds of content people should or should not post if they want to protect their own privacy:

For your privacy, you should consider carefully before posting personal medical information to the internet. Please remember that your posts and comments are available for all to see.

Massachusetts.gov Public Health blog comment policy outlines expectations about staying on topic:

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain “on-topic.” This means that comments will be posted only as they relate to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post.

 I also like their privacy statement:

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as Social Security number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, your comment may or may not be posted on the Blog. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. You have the option of posting comments anonymously, but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Massachusetts.Gov explains the fact that the State law requires records to be retained:

Please note, that Records Retention Law of the Commonwealth requires the Mass.Gov portal team to preserve records created or received by a state employee. Pursuant to this retention requirement comments posted or messages received via an official state agency page on a third-party web-site (such as an official agency profile on a social network) will be treated as state governmental records and may be permanently archived. Information that you submit voluntarily through social media sites associated with this agency where such information is publically available, including your name, city or town, and the substance of anything that you post may be disseminated further by being posted online at this website or be publicly discussed by a member of the administration.

The US Army’s policy for users on their facebook page has some really good language as well:

While this is an open forum, it’s also a family friendly one, so please keep your comments and wall posts clean. In addition to keeping it family friendly, we ask that you follow our posting guidelines here. Posts will be removed and users may be banned permanently if they violate the guidelines listed below.

  • No graphic, obscene, explicit or racial comments or submissions nor do we allow comments that are abusive, hateful, vindictive or intended to defame anyone or any organization.
  • No solicitations or advertisements. This includes promotion or endorsement of any financial, commercial or non-governmental agency. Similarly, we do not allow attempts to defame or defraud any financial, commercial or non-governmental agency.
  • No details about an ongoing investigation or legal or administrative proceeding that could prejudice the processes or could interfere with an individual’s rights will be deleted from this page.
  • Apparent spamming or trolling will be removed and may cause the author(s) to be blocked from the page without notice.
  • No copyrighted or trademarked images or graphics. Imagery posted on the Facebook wall should be owned by the user.
  • No comments, photos or videos that suggest or encourage illegal activity.
  • No documents of any kind should be posted on this page.
  • You participate at your own risk, taking personal responsibility for your comments, your username and any information provided.

Additional Resources

There are MANY resources to choose from when writing your policy. For a compendia of social media policies see this resource page at idisaster. Other resources:

Your Turn

Module 2: What are Social Media Anyway?

What are social media?

Before we get too far into all of the various uses of social media for emergency management, public health and crisis communications, it is important to define what is meant by “social media”.

The formal definition:  Social media allow for lay users to collectively author, moderate and share information free from the restrictions of traditional information dissemination. (See below for more definitions.)

This pic above (I can’t find who created it give attribution) was widely circulated and discussed because it so aptly describes not only the various social channels, but the culture of those channels–all with the idea of a person discussing a mundane activity of eating a donut. The funniest contrast is between the direct statement made on Twitter: “I’m eating a donut” versus LinkedIn’s “My skills include donut eating.” The author gets in a joke at Google’s expense as well. Google’s social network has not lived up to their expectations.

What does this mean for first responders?

The concept of sharing is an important distinction between social media versus traditional media. Although the above graphic doesn’t depict this component explicitly, people expect two-way conversations and interactions on these networks…thus the name “social” media. Furthermore, users can choose to follow very specific kinds of content.  For example, if  a person watches a traditional news broadcast they are going to hear what the producers have decided is important: If a tornado goes through three towns and one of them has some really dramatic images, you can guess where the media is going to focus. In contrast, social networks will provide hyper local information, generated by the people in the community that have been impacted, are responding and volunteering.

How would the above graphic look after a crisis? Experience shows us that people share almost instantly what is happening to them. (See also the screen capture from one of the spontaneous Massachusetts 2011 Tornado facebook pages.)

This user generated content can be turned into situational awareness information for responding organizations.  Response personnel can monitor these networks to determine what the public sees, hears, feels, etc about the situation–as well as ask and answer questions.

For those of you unfamiliar with the terminology of social media here are some more general definitions:

  • Blog: A self-published diary or commentary on a particular topic that may allow visitors to post responses, reactions, or comments. (Hint–this website is a blog) 
  •  Post: Content an individual shares on a social media site or the act of publishing content on a site.
  • Profile: Information that a user provides about himself or herself on a social networking site. (e.g. I’m eating a donut”)
  • Social Networks: Platforms where users can create profiles, share information, and socialize with others using a range of technologies: twitter, facebook, foursquare, instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, LastFM, G+.
  • Wiki: a website whose users can add, modify, or delete its content via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a rich-text editor. Wikis are powered by wiki software. Most are created collaboratively. Wikis can be community websites and intranets, for example. Some permit control over different functions (levels of access). For example, editing rights may permit changing, adding or removing material. Others may permit access without enforcing access control. Other rules may also be imposed for organizing content. [1] Source: Wikipedia: “Wiki” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki

More Definitions

Here are a few definitions, as well as some examples, of the popular networking sites. Keep in mind, however, that there are numerous social sharing sites in use, and new ones continually come online.

Twitter is a real-time information network and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and receive small bursts of information called Tweets. Each Tweet is 140 characters long, but can also include links to photos, videos and conversations.  The service has over 140 million active users as of 2012, generating over 340 millions tweets daily and handling over 1.6 billion search queries per day. Unregistered users can read the tweets, and registered users can post tweets through the website interface or on other twitter client applications, Short Message Service (SMS), or a range of apps for mobile devices.

Facebook: The best definition comes from Wikipedia (itself a collaborative social site) Facebook is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004. As of May 2012, Facebook has over 900 million active users, more than half of them using mobile devices. Users must register before using the site, after which they may create a personal profile, add other users as friends, and exchange messages, including automatic notifications when they update their profile. Facebook allows any users who declare themselves to be at least 13 years old to become registered users of the site. Similar sites include MySpace and Google +. Source: Wikipedia “Facebook” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook

YouTube is a free video-sharing website which allows users to upload, view and share videos. The company uses Adobe Flash Video and HTML5 technology to display a wide variety of user-generated video content. According to YouTube’s current stats, sixty hours of video are uploaded every minute, or one hour of video is uploaded to the site every second. Over 4 billion videos are viewed a day! YouTube videos can easily be embedded on other social sites including blogs and Facebook and linked to via Twitter. Other video sharing sites include Vimeo, vidiLife, Revver, DailyMotion, Break, and  Metacafe just to name a few. Source: Wikipedia “YouTube” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YouTube and Statistics-YouTube http://www.youtube.com/t/press_statistics

Flickr:  An image hosting website acquired by Yahoo! in 2005. This photo sharing service is widely used by bloggers to host images that they embed in blogs and social media. Photos and videos can be accessed from Flickr without the need to register an account but an account must be made in order to upload content onto the website. The company also has an app for use by mobile users. Other photo sharing sites include: SmugMug, Photobucket, SlickPic, dotPhoto, and Webshots, just to name a few.[1]  Source: Wikipedia “Flickr” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flickr. And Flickr.com.


Here are the some of the best resources specifically for government agencies.
  • Facebook for Government: Facebook.com/Government looks at the many unique and interesting ways government agencies are using the Facebook Page platform. We highlight some of the best examples of how to optimize your government Page to be a useful and popular tool for constituents and Facebook users.
  • HowTo.gov Although this site is by and for Federal employees, it has some very useful content.
  • IACP Center for Social Media In partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, the IACP launched its Center for Social Media in October 2010. The goal of the initiative is to build the capacity of law enforcement to use social media to prevent and solve crimes, strengthen police-community relations, and enhance services. IACP’s Center for Social Media serves as a clearinghouse of information and no-cost resources to help law enforcement personnel develop or enhance their agency’s use of social media and integrate Web 2.0 tools into agency operations.
  • Social Media at CDC The Center for Disease Control was one of the first Federal agencies to use social media and continues to set the standard for excellence. This site includes links to toolkit and many other helpful resources.

Your Turn!