Instagram is becoming a main digital storyboard portal for users to share their experiences, capture a moment in time where they can provide visual eye witness accounts about their experiences or share those images that are compelling and memorable, as well as edit and share these images across social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
A great site to check out to see what images are being uploaded and shared across Instagram related to Hurricane Sandy is #Instacane – you all may want to check this out.
One of the risks we do see with some of the issues that are related to Instagram is the fact of who is controlling the narrative that is emerging within this particular crisis. In other words, it is not only key to control the narratives within crisis messages, but also the visual narratives.
Other risks associated with Instagram that crisis communicators have to determine here as well is the rise of not only rumors, but false visuals that illustrate what is going on in a given situation. This has been something we have observed as well in Hurricane Sandy. Fake photos that have been edited, sharks and other viral memes, and even pictures that were taken years ago are just a few examples of some fake pictures we saw during this natural disaster.
Pictures are worth a thousand words – and photos and videos are the new currency for social media professionals according to a report by Pew Research Center. Brands have been very active on Instagram since it has been a platform they can strategically use to share their experiences and stories with their audiences. The power of photos was definitely a major theme we are seeing with Hurricane Sandy. Individuals are controlling the visual narrative emerging from Hurricane Sandy – which does provide insight for government agencies and other public officials so they can detect what others are experiencing and willing to share.
However, some officials are on Instagram and sharing their visuals with others while others are not. What Hurricane Sandy has shown as is the power of visuals and how we still need to have a presence on each new social media platform to establish our credibility and engage audiences through this new tool.
So, what lessons can we take aware from Hurricane Sandy? Here are just a few that I felt were important to note.
- Social media is still a powerful tool for communicating information and news across multiple platforms in a crisis. We are seeing the seamlessly integration of various social media platforms together so people are comfortable in sharing consistent messages with all of their communities.
- Government agencies,officials, and others involved were more consistent with their messages and strategic use of usernames and hashtags on Twitter.
- Government agencies and officials were controlling the narrative during disaster on Facebook and Twitter, but individual users were dominate with the visual narrative on Instagram.
- Localization and geolocation understanding and monitoring was also important to be aware of as well as the use of educating audiences on how to provide information to emergency responders and other government agencies during Hurricane Sandy (thanks to Tweak the Tweet app)
- The rise of photos and sharing stories was prominent with the power of Instagram during Hurricane Sandy.
- Other associated risks and challenges for social media in crisis situations were still present (risk of false rumors, misinformation, lack of access to online resources, etc).
I believe the crisis and emergency management community will continue exploring all of these developments and lessons learned from this particular natural disaster. Social media is becoming more integrated and part of traditional crisis and emergency plans and strategies- however, there are always ways to improve on this. Further research and discussion needs to happen both in the professional and academic community related to these issues and challenges.
Hope you all are having a great day!