WAFB made it out to Louisiana Technology Park for our August meeting, where Graham along with Mike Steele (@MikeSteeleLA) from the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (@GOHSEP) spoke about how their respective companies utilize social media.
The answer — according to GOHSEP’s Chris Guilbeaux — a team of “Facebook and Twitter Rangers.”
Managing social media for a federal or state weather institution can be a daunting task due to the amount of false information intended to increase drama on the Internet.
Most importantly, the National Weather Service and GOHSEP strive to be accurate and consistent with other credible sources online.
Twitter, Facebook and YouTube can be useful platforms to warn people about tornados, hurricanes and severe flooding and share important information that could save lives or prepare people for danger. Facebook users decide what they see on their newsfeeds; therefore, urgent warnings and real-times updates are better suited for Twitter. The National Weather Service uses Facebook for general updates, trivia, facts and graphics. YouTube is best for information safety vides and more detailed updates.
But when inaccurate information becomes viral, panic can ensue. For example, a storm system is currently forming in the Atlantic Ocean, and the land destination has ranged from Texas to the east coast; people are already concerned. However, according to Graham, a storm’s projected path is not reliable until it has formed a center and 30 to 40 miles can be the difference between sunny skies and flooding. It is too early to warn people of an approaching hurricane.
It’s impressive how the National Weather Service and GOHSEP are using social media. Within two hours of a Twitter tornado warning drill, the message received:
- 119,872 views
- 2,057 likes
- 519 comments
- 1595 shares
An alert from the National Weather Service will sound on a smart phone if it is in ANY area where dangerous weather is probable or approaching. How amazing is technology!
Although much of the National Weather Service’s posts are controlled by federal regulations, social media allows meteorologists to voice their passion in a unique, more informal manner. For the first time since it was founded in 1870, the National Weather Service is engaging in two-way communication with its publics rather than simply pushing out information through TV or radio.
As we have heard before, there is no roadmap for social media, so mistakes are going to happen. Communicating with local stations and credible sources to verify information is critical for the National Weather Service and GOHSEP to move forward and prevent false information from going viral.
What’s the forecast for these institutions and social media?
Continue to keep the public safe by providing accurate and up-to-date information as well as strive to reach a younger audience through INSTAGRAM.