Social media have emerged as a powerful means for emergency managers to communicate with the public before, during, and after an emergency. A preliminary examination of this phenomenon suggests that emergency managers use social media for three general purposes: (1) as a channel for public service announcements, (2) as a source of information, and (3) as means to “crowdsource” certain capabilities.
This preliminary review yields several conclusions, which point to areas where additional research may help emergency managers better employ social media:
• Social media training can enhance response capabilities. Additional research could examine best practices to include in training.
• Social media strategies should be optimized for mobile devices. Additional research could identify techniques that are best suited to a mobile audience.
• Emergency managers should anticipate requests for assistance over social networks. Additional research could analyze different approaches to handling such requests.
• Communications strategies need to integrate multiple modes of communication. Additional research could explore strategies that include a mix of communication technologies or that target specific populations.
• Social media will be used differently at each level of government. Additional research could examine strategies at the local, state, and federal levels.
• Emergency managers should anticipate response efforts by private citizens. Additional research could explore techniques to engage self-organizing response efforts that exist outside any official chain of command.
HOMELAND SECURITY STUDIES AND ANALYSIS INSTITUTE, 2012