Thursday, September 18, 2008

Me, Twitter and Hurricane Ike

Although I never really mention the hospital by name... most of my readers know where I work. Recently we went through somewhat of a disaster. We have always talked about using twitter, and social media in crisis communication but it is not until it really happens that you figure out how it works.

So I knew the plan in case of emergency I should communicate out our status online from home using our social media channels and the web site. So the wind was blowing and the trees came down and the power went out, and never came back on... that is when I realized DSL does not work without power. (Note to self buy a wireless card)

But what I did have was my blackberry and cell phone. So my boss called the next day from the ride out command center and gave me the update, so I sent out the first tweet. I have twitter set up to feed to our Facebook so I was covering 2 bases with that.

Hospital Name fared well through #Ike all patients and staff are safe. We remain closed through the weekend

That same day they found someone who had power to update the website. Now I had something to link to.

Hospital Name will be closed for the remainder of today and there will be no appointments Monday Sept 15

With no power for 90% of the city patients and employees alike were following these tweets. We went from 150 followers to 275 followers in 3 days.

#Ike update...Limited patient appointments tomorrow and back to full operations on Wed Sept 17

We left on a Thursday night and got back on a Wednesday morning and of course announced our full operation but then began to use twitter to espress our needs. The response to this was amazing. Not only local media but people from as far as Boston were retweeting our need for blood and platelets!

Due to #Ike, blood supplies are severely depleted & a large number of patients at require daily transfusions.

On a personal note it was comforting to hear from my friends, colleagues and total strangers when I was at home in the dark disconnected from the world. During the night of the storm I went down stairs to find water coming into my entry way. After that I could not really sleep anymore. Sitting there in the dark watching my twitter stream on my phone made me feel a little safer somehow. Maybe it was just the fact that I knew that others out there knew where I was, and I knew where they were? When I got back to work on Wednesday, I heard others tell very similar stories. One person told me that for her it was Facebook. She kept track of where all of here people were and even found gas thanks to Facebook and her cell phone.

What would I do differently... I think I could have sent more twitter messages, but personally I was a little shaken up and tending to my children, but if anything like this ever happens again, I think I have a better handle on how powerful a tool this really is during crisis and how to harness the power.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Listening Skills

Lets say you were on a bus full of people and just a few rows back you heard someone mention your spouse, child, or even boss by name, clearly and specifically what would you do?

Would you :
1 Go back and smack them around until they stopped?
2 Turn around and stare at them directly, or inject yourself into the conversation?
3 Completely ignore it and go about your business?
4 Just perk up your ears a little and try and move a little closer so that you could hear the conversation? Perhaps position yourself speak up if necessary after you knew to content of the conversation and who the converse-rs are?

Your answer to this question may direct how you feel about social media use in your industry.

If your answer was 1... You might be on the road to becoming one of those embarrassing stories of organizations who develop a poor online reputation because of brand damaging behavior on the web. Discussion of your product or service even if negative can be an opportunity to improve or at least admit that you have things to work on. You are not really stopping the conversation by doing at best you are just moving it to a place where you cannot listen.

If you answer 2... You understand that listening is important, and transparency is good, but you are being creepy! Often listening and noting is enough. Sure get involved if there is some customer service that you can truly contribute, but if not just hang back.

#3's Just because you ignore them, does not mean that they are not talking about you. If it was your daughter's teacher on the back of that bus talking about how she skipped school (neg) or how great she was doing in class (pos) this might be good information to have from a strategic perspective. I recently heard someone say it was like having a phone in your office, advertising your number and not ever picking up that ringing phone.

Of course I recommend answer #4 whether you are on the bus, answering the phone, checking e-mail or monitoring social media mentions of your name, products, or keywords. Listen to what your customers or non-customers are saying about you, and respond accordingly. EXAMPLE; I found out about a feature of our site that did not work on on Firefox in Mac from watching twitter. I was able to fix it based on simply listening to the conversation.

For us I am listening out for current patients, perspective patients, caregivers to patients, people diagnosed with cancer and looking for answers and professionals looking to connect with our professionals. If I see a trend I note it, if I see an issue, I flag it, and send it to the appropriate department, if I see someone I can help, I ask them if there is anything I can do to help.

Right now, I am finding it with RSS feeds from Google Blog search, Technorati & Twitter search and collecting it all in a fairly messy excel document for reporting. I am in the process of looking for out of the box social media management tools. I will let you know what I come up with.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Social Media & Work/Life Balance Part 2

Problem #2 Can you represent your work life balance in your social media use & still be professional?

I am a person who uses Twitter, and Facebook in both a personal and professional capacity. In my personal social media accounts, I often talk about both work, and my personal life, because I am a whole and multi-dimensional person. Many of the professional connections I have made are because people have gained an understanding of both sides of my life. They are also parents, like I am or they have lived in Boston, or California like I have or they love dogs like I do... I can go down this road forever, but for some reason my work and my life intersects with the work and lives many others thus creating stronger business /personal connections.

Yet I am still hearing about people being reprimanded by their managers for this type of behavior. I have heard about people being chastised for talking about their sick child, or their plans to attend a social/professional happy hour on their own personal pages.

Managers, as long as your employee is not being vulgar, defamatory or obviously inappropriate please try not to scrutinize their every tweet or post. If they are also using it for business, they are cultivating an audience, and connections beyond the ones you can reach with press releases, or billboards or banner ads. I think they used to call it "word of mouth"? Don't make them follow the advice below.

Social media users, try to think through your posts and tweets, write them like a micro blog to your audience. Let them get to know you as both personal and professional. If you continue to have problems with backlash from managers, try setting your permissions to private, and remove your twitter feed from your Facebook updates, or blog.

Social Media Work/Life Balance Part 1

This is a post that I have been meaning to write for some time now. But events from the last few weekends ago made me realize that I needed to do it sooner, rather than later.

Problem #1 - Monitoring of social media, if done well may cut into your work/life balance

A few weeks ago I took my last "vacation" of the summer a long weekend in my hometown. During a hurricane preparedness meeting we joked about me not being allowed to travel during hurricane season, and the fact that I was "allowed" to go this one time because there was nothing in the gulf that week. The day before I was scheduled to come home, the news about hurricane Edouard reaches me via twitter.

The storm held off until I got into town and I was able to stay on call from home that day, but it was a close call.

The very next weekend, I was busy getting the kids school clothes and supplies together. I did not check twitter all weekend,only to find out on Monday that there was a patient/caregiver having issues in the hospital. I did all that I could to follow up, but the issue had passed. I felt terrible that I was not able to respond more quickly.

Can I be plugged in at all times? Probably not. Maybe we can pass the plug from time to time?