Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2013 Vol. 60 No. 9

Texas Emergency Management Briefs, Tips and Links

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@TDEM, Official Twitter Account

Emergency managers are using social media as a preparedness tool to engage the community, help with public information and otherwise aid in distribution of the preparedness message. In addition, social media is emerging as an important tool for situation awareness during the response and recovery phases of an emergency. Texas Division of Emergency Management is now using the official new twitter handle @TDEM.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Hashtags in #SocialMedia

Hashtags were originally created by Twitter to link tweets to dynamic feeds within Twitter. Using hashtags gives a user the ability to become part of a dynamic feed. The hashtag ensures a message is easily findable/located for users searching for a particular subject or conversation.

The popularity of the hashtag has prompted other social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram to enable them.  Facebook alone has billions of posts each day. Combine billions of Facebook posts, millions of tweets and millions of Instagram posts on a daily basis and the number of hashtags used clutters social media feeds.

While hashtags are a great way to locate topics and conversations, they can also put a user’s post into a topic or conversation that a user did not intend to be a part of. Social media users use hashtags freely, so it is important to think about what words or phrases to hashtag.

Suggested Dos and Don’ts:

Do Be Aware of Current Events
For example, during a hypothetical event, #Sky was trending in the middle of the “Sky” area forest fire. It would be very unfortunate for a user not to be aware and possibly put out a tweet reading, “I can’t believe how beautiful the #sky is tonight.”

Do Be Aware of Your Audience
When choosing a word to hashtag, think of who the intended audience is and who will help spread the message (RT the message). .

Do Check Spelling
If a user misspells a hashtag word, the intended audience misses the message.

Do Use Sparingly
Using too many hashtags in a post blurs what the message is. For instance, “We are holding an #earthquake #preparedness drill on Friday.” The message in this emphasizes preparedness and earthquakes and puts the user message into specific conversations. If one were to write #Friday, that broadens the topic vastly.

Twitter Hashtag Event List

Do Search the Hashtag Before Using
It is always the safest practice to make sure a user understands what is associated with a particular hashtag.

Do Customize a Hashtag to Promote an Event or a Chat
Example: "We are holding an #earthquake #preparedness drill on Friday. (#FridayQuake, #TDEMPrepares #TDEMDQuakeDrill #QuakePrepare). "

Don’t String Too Many Words Together
“#Ithinkpreparednessrocks” – Try to keep words strung together to a two word maximum, or three words if short.

Don’t Hashtag Every Word in a Message
“I #think #preparedness #rocks !” – Try to hashtag words that best suit your audience.

Don’t Use Hashtags More Than Three Times in a Post
“#Flood #waters are beginning to #rise. – Using too many hashtags will often confuse a user’s message.

Many of the ‘Dos’ cover the ‘Don’ts’ in this document.

The safest course of action is to research a hashtag before putting it in front of a word. A user can never be too careful. A user should know current events and/or incidents and have a targeted audience before using a hashtag.  Keep it simple. Keep it unique when a post requires creativity. Avoid generic words.

Emergency Management Common Use of Hashtags:

  • #txwx – weather messages
  • #txfire – active wildfire messages
  • #preparedness – preparedness messages
  • #areyouready – preparedness messages
  • #SMEM – social media emergency management
  • #DHS – Department of Homeland Security
  • #HSEM – Homeland Security/Emergency Management (being used as a preferred tag now by many EMs)
  • #Quake, #Earthquake – All things seismic
  • #UASI – Urban Areas Security Initiative (This started with the conference but now used to talk about relevant topics and Drive the #UASI Daily)
  • #Outbreak – Disease outbreak
  • #H1N1 – The H1N1 virus
  • #CBRNE – CBRNE is for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (or energetic) topics
  • #EMS – Emergency medical Services
  • #Fire – Fire and Rescue
  • #Hazmat – Hazardous Materials
  • #Missing – Missing person
  • #LEO – Law Enforcement Office or Organization

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