Rebecca and Genevieve Williams, who started the enormously successful Joplin Tornado Info website, are helping with a new University of Missouri Extension website designed to serve the same purpose after this week's Branson tornado. The following news release is from University of Missouri Extension.
A University of Missouri Extension storm recovery resource named “Branson Tornado Info” on Facebook was up and had 14,000 followers just 12 hours after the tornado struck Branson on Feb. 28.
Actually, the page was put in place back January by David Burton, civic communication specialist for MU Extension in southwest Missouri.
“I created three new pages on Facebook at that time for Branson, Springfield and Greene County that are modeled after the success we had last year with the Joplin Tornado Info and Missouri Flooding Info pages on Facebook,” Burton said. The Joplin Tornado Info page is still very active, with more than 48,000 fans.
Facebook users can “like” the Branson Tornado Info pages to find out how to help and to learn about emergency and cleanup work from the organizations and groups doing the work.
These pages are designed to be a collaboration of state, federal and local agencies and organizations involved in the affected areas. The pages are managed by MU Extension but public information officers from various organizations and community volunteers with media backgrounds can serve as co-administrators, following a model used after the Joplin tornado.
In fact, by March 2, the page had 11 volunteer administrators. The two most active volunteers have been Rebecca and Genevieve Williams, the mother and daughter team from Neosho, Mo. that were behind the establishment of Joplin Tornado Info.
Persons willing to help as administrators on these new pages should contact David Burton at firstname.lastname@example.org after liking the Branson Tornado Info page. He will then send you the guidelines for the page and instructions on getting set up as an administrator.
Having co-administrators who post information and check facts on what others post is important and was a key to the success of the Joplin Tornado Info page according to Burton.
“I logged in to Facebook at 5 a.m. on Feb. 28 and saw that this page had jumped from two fans to 50 before I even knew there had been a tornado hit Branson,” said Burton. “I got the word out to the media via email and we got things rolling. Before the end of that first day we were up to 14,000 followers. As we saw in Joplin, social media is a great communication tool during disasters especially because of Smart phones.”
The goal of the site administrators is to make sure posts are official in nature and researched. In other words, the official information is unbiased and research based, in keeping with MU Extension’s mission.
“On Branson Tornado Info, we don't collect money for our own efforts and we shy away from organizations that are merely collecting money. We don't post links about fundraisers, or groups selling shirts, trinkets and such. Instead, we link to sites that have collected information in lists, tables or officials reports and we answer posted questions. We learned in Joplin that if we are posting some new every five minutes the volume of the information will drive away followers and will unsubscribe. That defeats the purpose,” said Burton.
As of March 2, the page has nearly 17,000 followers and 12 administrators who have some clear goals and guidelines.
Burton is also working with the Williams to write up a formal document of guidelines and the lessons learned from the Joplin Tornado Info page so future presentations can be made to community leaders or organizations interested in using social media during natural disasters.
More information is also available online from MU Extension at http://extension.missouri.edu.