Social Media FAQ
What Is Social Media?
Social Media has over the past few years become a buzzword both on and off the internet. While the words get used freely, rarely are they clearly defined.
Traditional media outlets include newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations. They operate on a model of one to many, meaning news or information is presented in a format requiring significant resources from the media outlet out to many consumers with a limited ability to share the content.
Social Media outlets include internet forums, weblogs (blogs), audio and video podcasts. Social media outlets operate on a model of many to many, meaning news or information is presented in a format that requires minimal resources from the outlet out to potentially many consumers (readers or friends) with the incredible ease of sharing the content.
How Is Social Media Different Than Traditional Media?
In Traditional Media a newspaper requires paper, ink, a printing press, and a distribution network. All of those things require both capital and manpower to make it work. In Social Media, all a content creator requires is an internet connection and a free account at anyone of the Social Networking sites. Social Media is incredibly easy to create and can be done by virtually anyone.
One striking similarity between Traditional Media and Social Media is accessibility. Both the newspaper and content creator can garner either no views of their content or be seen by dozens, thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions. The popularity of a Social Media creation is ultimately decided by the value of its content and the ability of the creator or creators to connect directly with people, not by the size or wealth of their resources.
Why Should Public Information Officers (PIOs) From Public Safety And Disaster Response Agencies Use Social Media?
Fire Departments, EMS agencies, Hosptials, Police Departments, Emergency Management, and Public Health Departments all follow the guidelines of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) or similar command structures like the Incident Command System (ICS) or the Hospital Emergency Incident Command System (HEICS). An essential component of incident management is distribution of timely and accurate messages to the public, the media, and other emergency responders.
We believe Social Media should be an essential outlet for the PIO during normal operations, training exercises, and significant incident response for these three important reasons:
- To Connect With Our Geographical And Professional Communities
- To Improve Public Education And Awareness
- To Improve And Protect The Perception Of Our Agencies
Is This Something We Should Do Now?
In June of 2009 Clay Shirky, a renowned author and NYU Professor, stated during a TED Talk that, “The moment we’re living through, the moment our historical generation is living through is the largest increase of expressive capability in human history.”
Public Safety and Disaster Response Agencies can no longer sit and wait for National Associations or the government to address their individual needs and concerns. It is time that Agencies became vocal advocates for themselves, trusted sources of information, and actively engaging members of both the community they serve and the community of professionals they are already a member of.
How Can I Start?