Christina Loznicka, APR of Allstate provides a look at how Twitter is being used to spread information during the concern about the swine flu, and how Twitter can be used in crisis communications.
As the popularity of Twitter swells, so does its potential to spread information – real or imagined – in a time of crisis. Is it any surprise that on Monday, two percent of all “tweets” on the social networking juggernaut Twitter were on the Swine Flu?
With so many users issuing warnings against eating pork, debating potential symptoms and speculating on the diseases spread, it is possible that Twitter may spark an uniformed hysteria that infects far more than the Swine Flu ever will. How bad is it? Here are a few recent panic-fueling Swine Flu tweets:
• I’m concerned about the swine flu outbreak in us and mexico could it be germ warfare?
• In the pandemic Spanish Flu of 1918-19, my Grandfather said bodies were piled like wood in our local town….SWINE FLU = DANGER
• Historical reference – the swine flu vaccine killed more people in the 70s scare than the swine flu did!
• BREAKING News Ontario confirms its first cases of swine flu in the province with four mild cases, all in the Toronto area.
• Swine flu? Wow. All that pork infecting people….beef and chicken have always been meats of choice
• Needing to do errands around Los Angeles today. Wondering if I should wear a mask to avoid the Swine Flu?
But despite the potential for misinformation, there are huge benefits to be gained by embracing Twitter as a communication tool in a time of Crisis. The Centers for Disease Control is using Twitter to provide regular updates on the growing crisis and provides a great example to communicators everywhere on the importance of this new medium. By following @CDCEmergency, Twitter users receive official government updates, recommendations and advisories and links to official Q&As.
Communicators everywhere can learn a lot by following the CDC’s example. Twitter provides a direct line of communication to the public that has never existed before. Search Twitter and learn what others are saying about your organization. If you don’t already have an official Twitter account, create one and update it regularly – especially during a crisis when the public may be clamoring for information about your organization. Finally, let people know you’re out there. Provide a link to your Twitter account on your corporate Web site, press releases and e-mail signatures.
By Christina Loznicka, Allstate Insurance Company
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