Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it

Turning bad weather into social media success

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blizzard 2The recent Blizzard of 2013 was an eye-opener, especially for people who didn’t remember the Blizzard of ’78. The difference between then and now? Better weather forecasts and social media!

Social media is changing the way hospitals can communicate with the public. Even during a power outage, people turn to their smartphones for information. So when meteorologists predicted Winter Storm Nemo for our area, I felt the hospital accounts I manage should be a source of all kinds of storm-related information.

When blizzard watches became actual warnings, it was time to develop a storm content calendar for communicating with our social communities. With the storm predicted to last about 24 hours, it was important to stay up to date on the latest news to share the most important and helpful information with our friends and followers.

The content calendar focused on keeping people informed with regular updates on the forecast, tips on preparing for the storm, safe driving tips, what to do in power outages, and of course, safety tips for cleaning up afterward, like shoveling and using generators and snowblowers.

It also included key information that was coming from the Governor’s office and the Mayor’s office, including the declaration of a state of emergency, parking bans, road closures, reminders to shovel sidewalks and check on the elderly, and so on.

Beginning Thursday, the day before the storm, we provided the latest information on the weather predictions and how to prepare for a blizzard. We shared the information via our six Twitter, six Facebook and two Pinterest accounts. This continued into Friday, the day the storm was starting, and then wrapped up on Saturday with more posts on both Twitter and Facebook.

So how did I keep up with what to tweet and post on Facebook? Simple–I created a Twitter list that I called “Emergency Agencies.” My list of Twitter accounts included local and federal FEMA offices, our local media outlets, CNN Breaking News, the Weather Channel Breaking News, the state of Rhode Island Governor’s Office , and our local health department, among other key accounts.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover some of our media outlets had twitter feeds you could subscribe to that would include the feeds from all of their reporters. This proved to be incredibly helpful when trying to keep up with the latest news and impact from the storm, and on power outages.

Creating that list resulted in a continuously changing and up-to-date stream of what was happening in the area, and it became a source of what to post out for our own community. It worked perfectly for us, and is something we will continue to rely on in the future.

Our on-call media relations officer also was checking in regularly with each of our emergency departments so we could provide the latest information on accidents and injuries that we were treating. She also was scheduling regular phone interviews with ED physicians to speak with the local media.

This helped to position our emergency medicine physicians as experts by giving safety tips throughout the storm. Also, when the doctors were doing live interviews, I was tuned into the news to tweet out the key information they were sharing.

Those techniques helped keep our streams up to date, as well as keep our local public informed. If you used social media during a weather emergency, what did you do? Share your tips!

This post was originally written for and published on www.hospitalimpact.org, where I am a regular guest blogger.

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Author: Nancy Jean

I love reading, writing, music, the beach, and being a mom to two rescue dogs. My job is social media for health care.

2 thoughts on “Turning bad weather into social media success

  1. Hi Nancy, I also found that many of the media use different hashtags, I would search via hashtags and lists to see the latest updates and news on the storm. There must have been at least 3 top hashtags, #SnowRI, #Nemo #Blizzard2013 to name a few. Would it be better if they all used just one?
    I like having a list of local people during weather events here. I started that when you had that “earthquake” over a year ago now. It’s a wonderful way to know what is happening locally.
    The smartphones have made such a diffference! Of course you must keep them charged in case of power outages 🙂

    • Hi Lisa! Thanks SO much for the comment! You’re right… all those hashtags were crazy. I WISH there had been just one. Even @felicejfreyer commented on another hashtag being used by the Governor’s office! I do remember that earthquake. The building was swaying. That was so strange. But I do love our lists. I’m happy to share mine with you if you’d like — just let me know. And those smartphones are definitely a life saver! I don’t know if you are using an iPhone or a droid, but for iPhone there’s something called a Mophie that acts as a case AND a charger when your iPhone battery goes low. It’s fantastic! I’m guessing there must be something similar for droids, and definitely worth checking out. I love my Mophie! Stay safe in yet MORE snow this weekend. Talk soon!

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