Here’s How the UN Says You Should be Tweeting

A nextgov.com article reports that the United Nations has released a report which aims to provide best practices for using hashtags on social media during emergencies.

Hashtags, if anyone is unclear, are “words or phrases preceded by a hash mark (#), used within a message to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate a search for it” (Dictionary.com).

The report comes from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

One recommendation is to encourage the geo-location of tweets. The report says one “possibility is for response agencies to discuss with Twitter about automatically asking users if they would like to enable GPS when posting from a natural-disaster-affected time zone.” It cautions, however, that special consideration should be taken in areas where there is social unrest, a repressive government or a war.

The report also recommends a standardization of hashtags during a crisis. It recommends three types: a disaster name/title hashtag, a public reporting hashtag (such as #iSee, #iReport or #PublicRep) and an emergency response hashtag which builds on cultural norms and mimics country phone codes, such as #911US or #BR193 in Brazil.

“Each hashtag is intended to fulfill a specific role, including ensuring the continuity of information; public tracking of needs, people and supplies; and providing a platform to facilitate direct assistance,” the report says.

With the disaster title hashtag, the idea is to create a structure for a specific disaster’s presence on social media early on, so that everyone who is talking about it online is referencing it in the same way.

“News stations have been remarkably successful in encouraging early standardization of hashtags, especially during political events,” the report states. “News stations encourage standardization because such a system enables real-time opinion polling. The intention is to use a similar approach for emergency response reporting and develop partnerships with Twitter as well as weather and news teams to publicly encourage such standardization.”

One of the things people sometimes dislike about Twitter is the very thing that defines the social media service – its limitation – the 140-characters-per-tweet limitation. While it encourages people to get to the bare bones of a thought or message, it can be difficult to contend with when a lot of information needs to be communicated. But the report has found a way around that.

“When promoting hashtag use for emergency response, agencies should encourage the use of infographics,” the report says. “This will allow Twitter users to easily retweet the important information without the 140-character limitation, and without disrupting the monitoring system by referencing to-be-monitored hashtags. These how-to infographics should be propagated using existing emergency response Twitter handles (e.g., @UNOCHA) while mentioning the specific disaster title hashtag (e.g., #Fay).”

 

For more information, see the original article here: http://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/2014/11/if-theres-emergency-un-wants-you-tweet/98537/
For the UN’s hashtag standards report, click here: https://docs.unocha.org/sites/dms/Documents/TB%20012_Hashtag%20Standards.pdf