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Social Media in Emergencies

In a crisis, social media can help you spread your messages quickly, keep up with the concerns of your public, monitor and correct rumors, and get the latest news as it happens.

During crisis situations, people will turn to social media for new information. Use this to your advantage by posting to Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media frequently, at least three times day. As with other types of messaging, verify the information in your social media posts before release.

Social media signs such as Like and Tweet

When you only have 140 characters on Twitter, concise messaging is your only option. Try to keep your message even shorter—about 125–130 characters in a “tweet”—so that it makes it easier for others to re-tweet. Though you have more room on Facebook posts, still try to be brief so that subscribers can see the whole post in their news feeds (especially if they are viewing the posts on their smart phone).

In every post, include a link to more information from your organization or your partner organizations. Use “@ mentions” (by putting the @ symbol in front of a partner’s Facebook or Twitter account name) to connect with partner organizations in your post.

Tag your information with keywords (such as on a blog or on Flickr) to help people find your information. On Twitter, use hashtags (a # symbol followed by a keyword) to allow people to search for your topic or event. Monitor what others are using as hashtags to describe the issue or event, and use the same ones.

Tweet Example: Power out? Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Never use generators or charcoal/gas grills indoors. #WAstorm

Watch your social media feeds for information from partners and other trustworthy sources and share it with your subscribers.

Social media allows for two-way communication. Be responsive to questions, requests, and even criticism. When you respond to one user, you are also providing information to all your other subscribers, which can help with rumor control and dissemination of correct information. But do keep in mind that your responses are publicly visible, so refrain from online arguments or appearing defensive.

Check out CDC’s Social Media Guidelines for more information.