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Archive for September, 2014

By Lauren Seelbach

During my summer internship at the American Red Cross (ARC), I explored how social media can be used in the disaster context. Examples could range from identifying pockets of need to fostering communication with affected individuals.

PPE stockpile in Ohio (Photo: Ohio Department of Health)

President Obama touring the Red Cross Digital Command Center (10/30/2012) Photo: http://en.community.dell.com

My project focused on how decision-makers at the ARC are using social media. I interviewed thirty-eight individuals in disaster operations to understand (1) how they were currently using social media in disaster operations, (2) what specific decisions had been informed using social media, and (3) what functionality they felt was lacking in making the link between social posts and decisions.

Based on the analysis of these results, several key recommendations were made on how to apply social media data to operational decision-making. They are to:

  • Define and incorporate a process for using social media in decision-making in existing policies or develop new policies for this process, considering that:
    • The process should be defined for an operational role;
    • The process should be focused on identifying information on which an operational decision can be made;
    • The opportunity to work with any provider of a social monitoring service (e.g. Radian6, Dataminr, HootSuite) should include a process to further refine the software to address the unique needs of a decision-maker;
  • Develop or refine keyword groups in social monitoring software (if using) to pull posts focused on needs and client feedback;
  • Develop an operationally focused training module for social monitoring software platforms and encourage wide participation among staff in headquarters and regional locations;
  • If the organization is reporting social data, incorporate data that is regionally focused, as opposed to or in addition to the “big picture” reporting.

These findings represent actions that any organization can take to increasingly apply social media in operational decision-making, no matter the context. They are relatively simple policies and procedures that solidify the place of social media as a relevant information source in decision-making.

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