Tag Archive for #smem

The value of hyperlocal channels during incidents

I’ve been involved in the social media management of incidents many times, mostly flooding on behalf of the Environment Agency but also fires, and a major power cut too.

Yesterday was my first experience from the other side, as a resident and also as one of the admins for social media accounts in my local area.

I woke up to this tweet from Solihull Police

The location is about half a mile away from my house and so I retweeted the information on my own and the @balsallcom Twitter accounts.  I assumed it was a traffic accident and didn’t think too much more about it, until I saw some posts in a closed Facebook group of school mums indicating it was something very different. Shortly after that there were local news reports about the situation that I shared on both Twitter and Facebook. 

The incident was resolved around lunch time, and later in the day I was able to share confirmation that the road was open and the mother and child were no longer on the roof.

Experiencing this as a resident, there were three key things that I think it highlighted:

1. Hyperlocal social media channels are really important to communicate in an incident

They are the best way to engage with those that need to know what is happening.  The road in question is a busy one in and out of Balsall Common; the social media accounts for the village reach large numbers of local people who were then able to make alternative plans for their commute, school run, and other journeys. The Facebook post alerting people to the incident reached nearly 6000 people. From Facebook insights I can see that people reached and engaged this week live largely within a few miles of Balsall Common.

2. Don’t trust the wider media to pass on information correctly

The Daily Mirror got the geographical information horribly wrong. But even ITV Central had the wrong location on their map. Presumably they’d googled Kenilworth Road, Balsall Common and then uploaded the result to their website. Unfortunately they did this without realising the road is a few miles long and the pin was at least half a mile out of place. The true location was off the bottom of the screen shot they’d taken – not helpful for drivers and others needing to navigate around the incident. Also worrying for people living near the pin.

ITV Central map

ITV Central map and news story headline



3. Organisations need to tell people when an incident is over

From a practical point of view drivers and others need to know whether the road is open or not for their journey home. There was also huge concern for the woman and her child locally. Fellow mums and other residents were anxiously waiting to find out whether the situation had been resolved.  Informally some of us found out from nearby residents but it was a while before we had official confirmation from a trusted source.  Thanks to West Midlands Fire Service for letting us know via Facebook. Solihull Police sent a great initial tweet alerting people to the situation with precise road closure information, but more than 24 hours later that is still the most recent tweet they’ve sent.

A dramatic day and one that I hope isn’t repeated any time soon. Another local resident, summed up the thoughts of us all perfectly.

Flying high in a crisis

WestJet run one of my all time favourite Twitter accounts, it’s friendly, humorous and useful. They have also produced one of the best ever Youtube videos from a company.

Recently they’ve been doing a great job in a much more challenging situation. A series of bomb threats to their planes has resulted in diversions, delays, speculation and a lot of questions.

They’ve handled it admirably with all the key ingredients of a good social media crisis response

1. Fast and authoritative updates


2. Shareable informative messages


3. Directing people to relevant information from partners


4. Not engaging in speculation and encouraging others not to speculate


5. Answering questions




6.Thanking supporters



7. Moving on with confidence

There’s a lot to be learned from their social media and crisis handling. They have a fantastic style and tone that really hits the mark no matter what the situation.

Let’s hope they can get back to fun YouTube videos soon.

Twitter tips – don’t just save them for a rainy day

This week’s rain reminded me of one of the days (one of the many, many days) spent in incident mode at the Environment Agency. During one of the wettest years on record, rain didn’t just mean an unpleasant journey to work or being stuck inside; the question ‘what are you doing at the weekend?’ was really a polite way of asking which shift you wanted to be put down for!

The pdf below shows a day in the life of the @envagencymids Twitter account during full-on flooding, with my training notes attached. After several months of weekend shifts, we were desperately trying to maximise the number of people we could call on to help manage our social media accounts. This document formed part of the training.

The day in question, 25 November, saw a peak of 156 flood warnings in place, problems with a new flood defence at Kempsey, and despite being a Sunday was an incredibly busy working day.

My top tips for managing twitter during an incident based on just a little bit of practice are:

Start early with a clear summary of the latest situation – @envagencymids most popular tweets were sent around 6am, they were then widely shared by the twitter accounts of local, regional and national news as well as many individuals.

Create lists of official partner accounts so that anyone managing your accounts can easily see who to retweet and name check – when you look after an account regularly you get to know that @wmerciapolice cover Herefordshire but you don’t want to be trying to find that out in an emergency situation.

Don’t be afraid to publicly ask for retweets from partners, since the riots in 2011, police forces tend to have by far the most followers of public sector organisations in an area, and as long as it’s relevant they will happily share your messages.

Don’t be afraid to repeat key messages, people don’t mind a regular prompt to check their flood risk, and a link to how to prepare. If you manage an account you will be looking at twitter all day, most ‘normal’ people don’t, so will miss a percentage of what you put out. They might be seeing that key message for the first time, even if it’s the third time you’ve mentioned it that day.

Try to reply to all tweets even if it’s just to acknowledge them, people like to know there is a human being behind the account they can interact with, particularly if they are worried about their own home or area.

Sign off at the end of the day (whatever time that may be). @envagencymids had some really nice responses to bed time tweets, lots of thanks and compliments, and also stopped worries about people expecting responses in the middle of the night. @Londonmidland never fail to do this as well.

Now , where’s my umbrella…

A day in the life of @envagencymids

By Claire Turner @clairet18