February 5, 2014 debbie.m

Alerts in the Digital Age

Remember the days when a snowstorm was raging in your town and you’d have to wait for news on the radio to hear if your school or work was closed? Social media and mobile devices have radically changed all that. We’re in the middle of (yet) another snowstorm in Ithaca, NY and, early this morning, I received word of our local school closing from 5 sources (text alert, Twitter update, Facebook status, email and a phone call).

Ithaca-area colleges, including Ithaca College, Cornell University and Tompkins Cortland Community College, also used Twitter and Facebook to keep their communities updated. (Oddly, Cornell’s dedicated weather Twitter account @Cornell_Weather was silent on news of the storm or Cornell’s delayed opening.)

Moments like this are another reminder of how technology is revolutionizing alert systems. It is also a good time to revisit your alert policies for weather or security notifications. Here are a few suggestions:

Social Media Alerts

Social media networks (Facebook and Twitter primarily) are effective ways to send out alerts. Make sure you offer consistent updates, especially during safety or security situations. For weather emergencies, share information about conditions, transportation, and what students and faculty can do if they need assistence.

Monitor Social Media

Sending out alerts and updates is important, but you also need to respond. Monitor your Twitter feed and Facebook page for posts from your community and reply. Share the best information that you have. Alert authorities when necessary.

Mobile First

Use your mobile web site or app to keep your users up to date. Place alert boxes prominently on all homepages (desktop, mobile and apps) and use them for the most important events. Make sure these alerts are updated and offer contact information for users in need of assistence.

Text and Email Updates

Use your organizations text and email lists to reach out to your community. In weather and security situations, users will look at their email and texts frequently for news and information. Be sure to deliver timely and routine updates.

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