Social Media Key for Success
THUNDER BAY – EDITORIAL – Embrace social media or perish. Engaging online is still, for some in the online world, something very new. Often in a world where ‘message control’, like in the world of politics, and in the military and in the Emergency Services; Fire Departments, and in many cases police services, the Internet is a medium that creates opportunity, and often concern if not downright fear. Putting information onto social media, like Facebook and Twitter allows reports to be shared quickly. It also takes away some of what some services consider “message control”.
Realizing Opportunities Determining Solutions
It is a reality that has kept some services from fully realizing the full opportunities the online world offers. It is also something that is already happening whether the service wishes it to or not. It is a “Brave New World”, and fighting it is not the way toward the future. Michael Veenswyk, the CEO of SMC4 a social media contact tool states, “Emergency services are increasingly turning to social media to interact with their respective communities. However, every organisation, especially public ones, such as the emergency services need to be able to capture, control, and communicate compliantly on social media channels”
Embrace Social Media
SMC4 calls on bodies within the Emergency Services sector to embrace social media, but ensure they are managing their communications securely. Michael Veenswyk continued; “It’s a new dawn in communication for Emergency Services. The advent of social will make them more responsive and active than ever before, but with opportunity comes challenges. That is why SMC4 is a genuinely valuable tool for this sector – it will prioritise the messages that need attention and bring communities closer together. We’ve already seen departments using it effectively. Social cannot be ignored and the organisations that get to grips with it, in a compliant fashion, will reap the benefits.”
[sws_pullquote_right]It is not however a process just for government. In the business world, learning to move at the speed of the Internet is critical. [/sws_pullquote_right] Online however, once the message is out there, the reality is in today’s world, everyone is a publisher. From the media giant CNN to the individual with a Facebook account, or a Youtube account, information goes out across the globe in mere milli-seconds. One concern that in an ever increasingly busy field of communications, for all Emergency Services is that while consumers are increasingly looking to engage with police, fire and ambulance departments through the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, there is the risk of important messages being lost within the billions of messages out in cyberspace.
However, not only is there the danger of messages that need urgent attention being lost amongst hundreds of others, but also the risk of not complying with local and national guidelines. The result is that all organisatons must be mindful of malpractice and possible litigation as a result of social media communication. In Ontario for Police Services, there is legislation to follow. While legislation often moves slower than the speed of technology, it is key for service administration, and management to keep abreast of the changing landscape.
In Ontario, the City of Toronto has seen the police service completely re-vamp their approach to social media.
One of the tools to change that has been technology driven. Citizens with cameras capturing police on duty is a massive change. Social media offers everyone the opportunity to get their message out. For Toronto Police the learning curve was steep, but the service has adapted quickly. In Thunder Bay, the Thunder Bay Police Service have moved slower, but continue forward.
Social Media Disengagement Disaster
There are issues that demonstrate the need for balance.
In the recent disaster in Lac-Megantic, social media was often far ahead of the official channels. The rail company lagged for days behind the media reporting, and the company president showed up in the Quebec town four days after the disaster. Demonstrating what experts will likely determine is railway speed thinking in the space age, he explained he had been working for up to 20 hours a day at his desk in his office.
Leadership should have put the railway president in Lac-Megantic, where with a smartphone and a computer he could have connected to the world in seconds and been present at the scene of the disaster.
Keeping ahead of social media is very hard. A company or a public service agency often has limited resources. The Internet and social media moves faster, and often in many cases without participation can force companies, police and governments to react. In Lac-Megantic, the rail company is likely going to face massive litigation, and potential bankruptcy.
Part of the problem for the company started with what appeared to be a complete lack of understanding of the business solutions that are available for them to communicate online.
Social Media Success
There are some major success stories in how social media and communications work. The City of Calgary and the Calgary Stampede have demonstrated how embracing social media, and having open and progressive communications during the recent flooding in Alberta can generate success.
The Mayor of Calgary was front and centre as the calm and reasoned voice of the city. Mayor Nenshi, by taking leadership in Calgary guided his community through the flooding, and aftermath.
Calgary will leave the disaster zone stronger in many ways than it was before the flood.
Get Social Media Right!
Getting social media, and communications right is key for success in today’s new world of communications.
Moving forward the importance of good social media strategies that offer solutions for business, government, and public services will be increasingly important.
For all agencies and companies embracing the opportunities is going to become increasingly important.