Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The social intelligence conundrum

I had an interesting dialogue on Twitter over the weekend about the need for agencies/organizations to use pay services to garner situational awareness in a crisis.

Here's how it started:
  1. Do you have access to a social media monitoring service? If not, you're definitely unprepared for digital crisis comms.
  2. you don't need a service for that ... anyone can monitor SM for free with right training/policy and integration into EM
  3. I don't believe there is any way someone could be as efficient in terms of situational awareness without a service.

I particularly pointed out the contribution of digital volunteers, most of whom, use a variety of free tools to do a fabulous job during emergencies around the globe:

tell that to all digital vols like and .don't need paid service .i'd trust their monitoring chomps over any1

The key question really, is what's needed? What do EOC managers or incident commanders need? Do agencies need access to the full "twitter pipeline" ?

I make the following points:
  1. with the proper search/monitoring procedures (keywords, hashtags, geo-fenced searches), agencies can get a pretty good sample of tweets/social posts to discern trends, identify rumours, etc .... often with the support of digital volunters (VOSTs come to mind)
  2. In the current state of the adoption of #smem by emergency managers ... there is simply no demand to get the whole data set ... to most in the EM community ...it'd just be noise ... that's where digital volunteers come into play.
Data without analysis or meeting the need of the emergency management organization or agency is useless ... It's got to support effective decision-making and online engagement.

So, a representative sample (and that figure keeps increasing with every single disaster) is more than enough to conduct social media monitoring. Again. this can be done for one or more of the following five reasons: 
  • validate emergency information put out by an agency (are people doing what you want them to do ? )
  • detect rumours/misinformation that could pose a threat to public safety/public health
  • identify and route through appropriate channels, calls for assistance (although you won't see them all ... you need a process in place to have it go to the right place)
  • detect reputation threats that could impede the agency's ability to respond (like key influencers criticizing your response or calling out senior executives or elected officials)
  • to enhance your situational awareness (gather social inter via posts, pictures, videos that people share when they witness an incident/disaster)
The fact is ALL OF THAT can be accomplished by using free tools (Hootsuite or Tweetdeck for example) although their paid version adds some umph ...as does a tool like @geofeedia.

More important than using paid tools though is the ability to validate data from your social listening operation. More and more of these tools that combine some analysis and verification features are now available. A few here:
What do you think? Paid or free ? the tools or the training and motivation of a dedicated team of volunteers ? I chose the latter ...

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