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Facebook for Emergency Communications

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Local Facebook Logo - Local AlertsFacebook politics/government experts recently conducted a Facebook Live for municipalities seeking to leverage the two billion-user network for spreading information during a crisis. The four politics and government “leads” shared a series of best practices and tools and also announced the launch of Facebook’s newest tool: Local Alerts.

Tripepi Smith Business Analysts Saara Lampwalla and Skylar Hunter participated in the session, gathering the experts’ insights on using Facebook to spread safety and recovery information. Here’s what they learned:

Proactivity Pays Off

Public agency staff can take proactive measures to develop resources and processes that underlie the success of their agency’s posts. In the context of an emergency, a “successful” Facebook presence means an agency can effectively reach its constituency with vital safety information, and

An agency can foster recovery efforts among stakeholders.

Ongoing Best Practices

1. Verify Your Agency Page

This ensures your authentic presence in the overflowing stream of dialogue that surfaces in an emergency. While you’re at it, verify all other agency Facebook Pages, such as those of your Police Department, Fire Department, etc.

2. Keep a Social Media Profile Roster of Local and Regional Public Agencies

In an emergency, you can share other agencies’ posts to your channels (and vice versa) to maximize the reach of all relevant safety information to your constituency.

3. Foster a Culture of Engagement

The Facebook algorithm will continue to prioritize family and friend’s content over all else–even posts regarding safety information. To combat this and ensure your posts reach your community, proactively invite your community to engage regularly.

You can start by prompting your community to adjust their ‘Choose What You See’ settings. Visit our related article for direction on sharing instructions on your Page. You can also encourage engagement by regularly responding to comments and inquiries. We recommend addressing all comments within 12 to 24 hours whenever possible.

The Facebook Toolkit

Facebook offers a series of tools for agencies to use in the midst of an emergency. Because Facebook is most people’s social media platform of choice, public agencies should consider leveraging their Facebook presence as much as their website. In the midst of a disaster, folks are more likely to visit your agency’s social media profiles than your website.

Here’s a breakdown of the tools you can leverage to enhance your emergency communications protocol:

  • Local Alerts: Represented by the indicator, ⚠️, this new tool that sends notifications to all page followers in a designated geographical area. A few hundred local governments have had access as Facebook fine-tuned the product. Now, it’s available to all agencies who complete this form.
  • Events: Agencies can create Event Pages that house information on preparedness workshops, donation drives, volunteer opportunities and more.
  • Stories: Stories are great for sharing quick, bite-sized bits of important information that you don’t have to fear getting lost in feeds. Since Stories display on an automatic, sequential queue, more people are likely to see it. Once your Page is verified, you can also share resources and management links.
  • Notes: Notes acts as a landing page on Facebook and is great for storing long-form information. Housing recovery information form the City, state and federal governments would be a great addition here.
  • Live: Facebook Live is a continuously expanding and engaging medium. In an emergency, Live broadcasting press conferences and updates from your mayor or council members can reach your immediate community and those beyond.
  • Groups: Groups is a great tool for first responders that want to organize recovery efforts. They often already consist of mass amounts of community stakeholders, making them an optimal place for disseminating official city and county information.
  • Safety Check: This tool is triggered when an ambiguous number of people post about an emergency. Once activated, people can mark themselves as “safe.” Facebook recommends that government pages post immediately to help trigger it.
  • Community Health: This tool is within Safety Check and helps with disaster response. It allows the community to offer and ask for help acquiring food, clean water, shelter, etc. It is also searchable by keyword and allows others to direct message in the portal.
  • Messenger: Firstly, automatic messages with important links can be generated to direct folks to more information/resources on your website. This can help filter the onslaught of communications. Additionally, it holds a custom query function and can connect to your website through API, giving folks broader access to website content, which also cuts down on the glut of basic questions being asked of staff.

In an emergency, spreading the right information is vital to supporting your community, and at times, saving lives. There are many tools for alerting your community during a disaster or crisis, such as Everbridge/Nixle and Nextdoor. Now you know that Facebook can be a fantastic resource for agencies, too. And, with a rundown on its latest tools, you’re equipped to see how it best fits into your agency’s emergency communications protocol.

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