Hurricane Sandy has been a hurricane many professionals in crisis communications and emergency management have discussed related to the use and implementation of social media. Discussion about what hashtags to follow versus users and how to get the most up-to-date results and information from credible sources – these are all of the areas being discussed via traditional and social media.
The thing about Hurricane Sandy is that while it is using all of the traditional social media platforms we have commonly seen over the course of various cases and crisis situations, it is using a new platform in a new way. Which platform is it? Well, it is Instagram. As it has been reported on the New York Times, 10 photos are being uploaded per second on Instagram related to Hurricane Sandy.
However, this seems to be the cycle that emerges when looking at how social media has transformed. Facebook was used across various crisis situations as was Twitter. YouTube has its own list of distinct crisis situations that have emerged ranging from Domino’s to the Japanese Tsunami. However, Hurricane Sandy does feature the distinguished photo editing social platform being used as being one of the main platforms to follow.
What are some lessons learned so far about Hurricane Sandy in the use and implementation of Instagram? Here are some things I saw when reviewing the particular use of Instagram for this particular natural disaster and emergency situation:
- The use of hashtags: You can see what people are tagging related to their pictures on Stat.gram about Hurricane Sandy – all you need to do is make sure to note which hashtag you will be monitoring related to Hurricane Sandy. One thing that Stat.gram can do is to provide a sonar view of where all of these tweets are located and which user is connected with each other. Geolcation should also be noted here as well in terms of future improvements for the site as a social media monitoring and statistics platform.
- Users, not government agencies, are controlling photo content on Instagram: I was amazed to see how many pictures were being uploaded to Instagram, but I was not able to see any pictures from some of the government agencies related to this disaster. FEMA had their account set to private, and I did not see any pictures related to the hurricane from American Red Cross. This is a huge opportunity to visually articulate to users through pictures to give them an idea of what they need to look for as being safe water, food, and pictures and updates related to the evacuation stations and shelters. This was a missed opportunity for the government agencies since they are letting users control the visual content on this site.
- Platform for visual search of realtime pictures of disaster event: If people want to see what is being shared across social media with certain crisis or emergency hashtags, this is one way to do this via Instagram. This is one if the practices and features that businesses are using Instagram for as part of their social media strategy.
- Providing visual updates: This is one way that Instagram is being used for communicating the impact of Hurricane Sandy across the various states on the East Coast. Pictures showing impact of floods to the damage in various neighborhoods, these are just some of the ways users are communicating via this particular social media platform.
- Analysis of comments and emergence of visual creator and curator influencers: This is an opportunity for crisis communicators and responders to determine what are the pictures being shared most, who is taking the pictures, what is their level of credibility and influence virtually on Instagram and other platforms of social media, and have they had previous experience in crisis situations and disasters before. Great opportunity here for research and exploration within crisis communications.
These are just some preliminary trends and topics we as public relations and crisis communicators need to be discussing. Instagram is one of the hot social media platforms out today in society and everyone is using it to promote events, share experiences, and showcase behind the scene footage across businesses and events.
However, like FB / Twitter / YouTube, Instagram can become another platform and tool to use in a crisis situation. We just have to learn from these recent events and determine what are some best practices and lessons we need to be aware of with Instagram related to crisis communications.
Hope you all are having a great day.