Social Media Coordination
Virtual Operations Support Team Presentation
BACKGROUND: Communication is essential to ensure response efforts and resources are maximized. The world of social media often becomes a burden for responding agencies, where false information spreads like wildfire and opportunities where vital information is being shared are missed. The VOST is a concept being utilized that relieves much of the personnel burden required for the social media response during large scale response. By recruiting credible volunteers, training with the appropriate partners and incorporating VOST operations into emergency response plans, social media can become a useful tool during the response rather than a crisis communication liability.
OBJECTIVE: Provide a pre-established, organized framework to harvest and distribute digital information.
CHALLENGES: There are several challenges regarding communication, particularly social media, during a large response that the VOST experts identified. Grasping the “big picture” of the event is certainly one. What is the public saying? What message is the press pushing out? What rumors are gaining traction? Furthermore, social media can quickly become overwhelming for responders and is often not prioritized properly. Limited social media and web capabilities with responding agencies will hinder the true digital response that is necessary to support communications during a response.
SOLUTIONS: Recruiting and vetting individuals before a disaster strikes is key in order to train and organize them in a matter that supports your operations. Seeking out individuals with particular digital skillsets, such as social media monitoring, will allow your communication team to focus strictly on web operations. Casting the recruiting net wide for VOST personnel enables agencies to ensure they have a variety of abilities available. These individuals will help create the “big picture” of the response by spotting trends and identify rumors/issues on social media.
TAKEAWAYS: I was not very familiar with a VOST until I was able to speak with Cheryl, Lloyd and Mary Jo. I left our conversations truly impressed at their ability to organize their social media responses to filter through a VOST when necessary.
- Like many aspects of responding to emergencies, planning ahead lays the foundation for your operations. Operating a VOST is no different. Identifying the gaps in your region’s social media plans will help you knowing which capabilities you should look for. Then you are able to reach out to different networks, gage interest, train and exercise the individuals you identified to fill those gaps.
- A VOST holds extra value when a response is moving into multi-operational periods. Any prolonged response runs into personnel and staffing issues. Social media is no different and, in many large scale responses, does not turn off when the lights go out. Having enough depth to your VOST teams ensures fatigue will not set in and your social media presence will stay sharp. Talking to one of the VOST presenters, she informed me that they had previously utilized VOST volunteers in New Zealand to counter act the early morning hours of the local response.
Drew Downing, MPH