When you need digital/social media support

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Today, Cheryl Bledsoe (Twitter.com/CherylBle), from Virtual EMA one of the pioneers of the VOST movement, held a webinar to discuss the Virtual Operations Support Team and how the team works.

In 2010, emergency managers were talking about how to harness the power of social media. They came up with the concept of the VOST to use social media “trusted agents” in diverse locations to help incident leaders have better information and complete web-based missions for emergency response.

As we know, social media helps you be more dynamic, listen to the public, share information and help incident command get intelligence.

Some web-based teams you may have heard of include Humanity Road or the American Red Cross’s digital engagement teams. But VOST is different.

The goal: Provide a snapshot of what is happening on social media as a member of the EOC or incident command. VOSTs can look for rumors and misinformation, threats and copycats, unsolicited volunteers, etc.

They curate and bring that information together and prepare narrative listening reports, filtering out the noise and clutter of social media.

Missions can be long (during a wildfire) or short.

Case study: Umpqua Community College shooting, October 2015

  • 10-member VOST, but only used 2-3 people per day. Mission was active for 17 days.
  • Evaluated spontaneous volunteers and fundraisers.
  • Presidential visit

VOST training available

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Where we would like to go in Utah:

  • Conduct training: Virtual EMA does training on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Build our team to be capable identifying rumors and misinformation.
  • Become skilled at curating social media messages and images.
  • Understand and become proficient at the tools that are available.
  • PIOs should consider becoming VOST team members.

If you would like to be part of UtahVOST1, contact Joe Dougherty, jdougherty@utah.gov.


Joe Dougherty, @PIO_Joe

How to not mess up your social media

First, huge thanks to Cottonwood Heights and Dan Metcalf for hosting the PIOs for the quarterly training luncheon on Wednesday. To show we mean the thanks, Dan gets free entry into the PIO Conference in September, as does anyone who hosts one of these meetings.

Now, onto the stuff: Social media tips from Dan Metcalf. Tomorrow, we’ll have notes from Ben Horsley’s presentation.

Watch for social media pitfalls

  • You still work for and represent your agency, even when you are off duty. What you say on your personal social media accounts still reflects on you and your agency.
  • Watch the context. Basically, make sure to research hashtags before jumping on and tweeting with them.
  • Be careful with humor. It can personalize your agency, but can go dreadfully wrong when misused.
  • Before you tweet, make certain you are logged into the appropriate social profile. It’s hard to make a worse mistake than tweeting a personal opinion via an agency account. Don’t do it! Two examples below.
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Click above to read the story on this one.
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Click above to read the story.

Social policies

You need an internal policy that addresses employees’ use of official channels, including social media training and monitoring, best practices and the number of people with access to those channels.

You also need an external policy that addresses your community standards and how you can justify the removal of posts on your pages while upholding free speech. Some of those justifications may include: off-topic posts, political endorsements, discrimination or personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, spam, advertising, copyright infringement, security or safety issues.

Think before you tweet, Dan says.
Tune in tomorrow for a recap from Ben Horsley’s presentation on the Clown Hoax.

Joe Dougherty is the secretary for the PIO Association. On Twitter at @PIO_Joe.