Using Twitter for Disaster Relief: What we Learned From Hurricane Sandy


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One thing is clear: Social Media is being embraced by public officials and mainstream media in times of emergency as a crucial medium for communication.

A recent article in the New York Times illustrates exactly how public officials are embracing social media in times of crisis and emergency.  The NY Times uses @NYGovCuomo as an example. The NY Governor’s Twitter account sent around 400 messages a day updating citizens on everything from power restoration updates to  photos of storm damage.  Its clear people value these updates as Gov Cuomo’s follower count has increased from 20,000 (pre-Sandy) to above 55,000 after the storm.

As expected, these public officials’ Twitter accounts are managed by a team of aides who are tasked with the challenge of consuming huge amounts of information and real-time updates from other Twitter users, their colleagues, and staff.

In most cases this is a small and trusted team of individuals sitting in an office somewhere monitoring various social media channels, email inboxes, phone-lines, and other incoming communication channels, trying to cut through the noise and translate the information  into Twitter updates sent out from the various government Twitter accounts.

In emergency and disaster relief scenarios, GroupTweet can help streamline the information gathering and dissemination process.  How so? Lets take a look:

1) Ease the information bottleneck!

In most cases only a few trusted staff members have access to the primary Twitter account of a public official.  This makes sense as it would not be prudent to give out the Twitter username and password for @NYCGovCuomo or @NYCMayorsOffice to a large number of staff members.

However, GroupTweet allows you to safely and securely add an unlimited number of staff members and/or colleagues as “contributors” to your Twitter account.  No need to give out the password for you account.  This means instead of just depending on a couple of staff members to gather information and spread the message, you can now spread the burden across a larger number of staff members and colleagues, by enabling any number of Twitter contributors to help you Tweet.

2) Sounds great – but we need to ensure our message is consistent and appropriate:

No problem! GroupTweet has built in message moderation functionality to address this concern.  You can enable moderation so that before messages are Tweeted out from your official account, you have your trusted staff members manually approve or deny each message.  If you don’t require moderation, contributors’ Tweets can instantly be retweeted from your Twitter account.

3) Save time by sourcing Tweets from various contributors and publishing with a single click:

Instead of translating incoming emails, phone calls, text messages, and press releases into Tweets – GroupTweet allows your staff and other contributors to do a lot of the leg work for you.  With GroupTweet anytime one of your contributors includes your specified Hashtag in their Tweet, it will automatically enter your moderation queue.  Instead of having to wade through your timeline and conduct various Twitter searches, have your contributors do the work for you by simply tagging their Tweets with the appropriate hashtag.

4) Contributors can GroupTweet by simply sending a Text Message:

In times of crisis and emergency when power and mobile networks are struggling to keep up, Tweeting via text message is an important necessity. Twitter only allows you to connect a Twitter account to a single phone. However, with the help of GroupTweet, all of your contributors can update a single Twitter account simply by sending a text message.

5) How does GroupTweet work exactly?

Let’s assume you run the @NYGovCuomo or the @NYCMayorsOffice twitter accounts.  With GroupTweet you could designate certain Twitter users as “contributors” to your account.  In the case of Hurricane Sandy perhaps, @ConEdison, @FDNY, @MikeBloomberg, as well as any of your staff members Twitter accounts such as @MayorsAide1.

Once these users are designated as contributors to your GroupTweet account you simply choose a hashtag(s) for your account such as #Sandy.  Now, anytime a contributor includes this hashtag in their Tweets it will either automatically enter your moderation queue or automatically be retweeted from your GroupTweet enabled account!  Its that easy, see below:

The Mayor’s Aide is out on the street in the middle of all the action and instead of having to send an email back to the communications team with what she’s observing, she simply sends a Tweet containing #sandy.  This Tweet now instantly enters the @NYCSandyAid’s moderation queue and can be approved and Tweeted from @NYCSandyAid with the click of a button!

In this example, the Tweet from @NYCSandyAid is followed by “via @MayorsAide1″, however this is customizable under your GroupTweet settings.  If you want GroupTweets to appear just like any other Tweet and not give attribution to the contributor you can certainly enable this behavior in your settings.

Have questions on how GroupTweet can help your agency or organization in times of disaster relief? Send an email to support@GroupTweet.com.  Want to try this out on your Twitter account today? Get started with GroupTweet here.

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Hi, I'm , Co-Founder of GroupTweet.com. GroupTweet allows you to add multiple contributors to a single Twitter account - creating a seamless group Twitter experience. Want to learn more? Click here for some examples or reach out via Twitter, you can find me @craft_ryan