Keep Calm and Tweet On: Using Social Media Effectively in a Pandemic

Social media is a valuable tool for state and local government officials to communicate during the pandemic.

Social media is a valuable tool for state and local government officials to communicate during the pandemic. SHUTTERSTOCK

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

COMMENTARY | In the social media era, government has never faced a crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic. Here are the principles that communication officials should consider in order to effectively communicate via social during a crisis.

The spread of COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge for public officials in many ways, including communications. Public information and communication professionals are required to provide a nearly constant stream of critical information related to COVID-19. In getting information out, social media has proven to be one of the most valuable communication tools. But, this is the first time state and local governments have faced a national crisis in the era of social media. Below are six key principles for communication officials to keep in mind to ensure they make effective use of social media in a crisis. 

Keep Calm and Tweet On

With many people on edge and glued to their screens, it’s easy to create mass panic with the wrong message. The public is looking to you for direction in how we cope with the new reality. It’s especially important for government agencies to spread their message in a clear, calm and professional way. This means not overusing exclamation points, laying off the caps lock button and putting people in front of the camera who can convey important messages in a controlled and reassuring way, like the National Institute of Health’s medical dream team

Simplify to Amplify

Remember that the majority of your audience looks at your posts while scrolling through hundreds of others. While in crisis you may hold slightly more of their attention, you are still “competing” with other messages, so your content needs to be as easy to consume and share as possible. To do that, use simple graphics, avoid large blocks of text and try to get your main point across without having people click on a link or watch a lengthy video. The World Health Organization has done an excellent job at communicating clearly, using images and short videos to make important points.

Engage

It may be tempting to set aside responding to social media messages in times of crisis in order to focus on urgent messaging. But don’t! Being responsive is critical in a time when many services are suspended and people can’t communicate in person with public agencies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took time to host a Twitter Q&A, the city of Newark hosts a daily Facebook Live to communicate with residents and the New York City transit authority is patiently responding to their followers questions. Tools exist that can help streamline your engagement process, making it easier to identify who you need to respond to. 

Get Ahead of Rumors

Crisis + social media = great breeding ground for conspiracy theories. For example, the National Guard is arresting people who walk their dogs? Or coronavirus spreads through Whatsapp? Keep an eye on your networks and try to get ahead of local rumors that may be spreading like, well, a virus. You don’t need to address them all but some may be too extreme or small for a response. But if you see that many in your audience are believing and spreading false information, use your official voice to stop it.

Don’t Give Up on Regular Content

Not everyone can afford to stay home. Public servants and many others are still working every day, and there’s nothing wrong with reminding people of that. Police are making arrests, trash is being picked up and the hungry are being fed. Post regular content that affects your work, and don’t shy away from posts that might make people smile. If you can be funny without being offensive or crass, you may hit the Twitter jackpot like the National Cowboy Museum.

Take Care of Yourselves

You may not be medical staff or law enforcement, but as a communicator you are still on the front lines of this crisis. You’re likely working 24/7, dealing with an anxious audience and coworkers, as well as with the terrifying thought that any post you put out can add fuel to the fire. For your mental, physical and professional wellbeing, remember to take a breath before you hit send. Wash your hands, regularly wipe down your electronics, rest, eat and stay hydrated. In other words, practice what you tweet! 

Yael Bar-tur is a digital consultant and former director of digital for the New York City Police Department. She has experience holding workshops, training classes and participating in Hootsuite webinars to discuss best practices for government organizations utilizing social media. Born and raised in Israel, Yael served in the Israeli Army as a foreign press liaison, and holds a Master’s Degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She current resides in New York.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
Public Health prioritized with Online Water Quality Contamination Warning System
Philadelphia, PA, USA
Corpus Christi Deploys COVID Management System to Improve Data & Eliminate Time-Consuming Tasks
Corpus Christi, TX, USA
Safer Holiday Celebrations Connect Residents and Support Local Business in Franklin, TN
Franklin, TN, USA

NEXT STORY: This Summer Will Scar Young Americans for Life

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.