A Flood Of Vital Information – Guest Post

    Sam Mutimer

    Yesterday started business as usual. My husband went into the Brisbane CBD my daughter headed off to Pre-School and I sat down to work. The flooding had already started, and I knew it was going to be bad. But I had work to do.
    I chose to turn the TV off. As someone who has experienced the devastation of floods I didn’t want to see the impact. Those visuals were just too much.
    So I turned on the Twitter stream to #qldfloods and got to work.
    By 10 am I had stocked up on groceries, picked up my daughter from soon to be cut off school and told my husband he needed to get out of the CBD. All because of Twitter.
    First and foremost the QLD Police and Government Departments, Community Agencies, News Papers and Radio Stations have done a wonderful job of keeping people up to date through Social Media. The streams of information via Twitter, Facebook and Ustream has been amazing. Special accounts have been set up and people are manning these accounts 24/7 to keep people up to date. For some organisations it is probably the first time they have used social media on a regular basis.
    The same cannot be said for some Business Owners in the Social Media Space. Some are doing a great job, answering questions, sending people to the relevant agencies and offering help to others. But others are using the opportunity to gain more followers. And let’s not forget about all the automated emails telling me about summer fashion. Seriously, the fashion in Brisbane is currently daggy old clothes and gum boots.
    This natural disaster has got me thinking about whether the tried and true social media strategies work in all situations. Here are my thoughts:
    1.    Spoke and Hub Model
    The Hub and Spoke model is where you put the most important information on your website, and use your social media channels to send people to your site. The last two days are showing us that that model is not the greatest in natural disasters. Websites have crashed. Geolocation tagging has meant overseas friends and family can’t find out important information.
    The better options have been Twitter and Facebook. These platforms are stable and easy for information to be passed quickly.
    2.    Connect first, sell later.
    Well this strategy hasn’t changed. In fact connection is more important. This is the time to be thinking of others, not the amount of followers you can get on a Facebook Fan Page. Some businesses have tried to set up special funds for donations and that has back-fired as well. People are beginning to mistrust the reason behind the action.
    The better option for everyone is to keep referring to the Government and Community Agencies. Keep the flow back to the original author and reliable source.
    3.    Community Action
    The beauty of Social Media is that it is driven by community. If you make a mistake or do something in really bad taste, the community will let you know. And again this has been amplified during the flooding.
    I must commend Queensland Police Services and their QPMedia Unit Twitter Account. They using the #mythbuster hastag to dispel rumours and misinformation about road closures, evacuations and water supply. They obviously have people watching the #qldflood stream and making sure all facts are correct, without the blame. But let’s also remember the wonderful support of each other either with kind words or action. Through Twitter and Facebook people have connected and helped each other get out of trouble by offering their time, utes and spare beds.
    The question I have, and am hoping the good team at thinktankmedia can answer for me, is Should Business be as usual for those both in Queensland and Australia? Some people are commenting that they are disappointed at the amount of tweets not about the Flood. Should I be upset to get my regular sales newsletters from stores? If we are currently working during this time should we go ‘dark’ or keep talking about our business and work as well as the flood?
    In the end I think all us, including government agencies, businesses and community services need to do online just what we are doing offline. Help each other stay safe, keeping people informed and lending a hand where possible.
    Ainslie Hunter @ainsliehunter