More emergency management organizations are beginning to engage in social media every day. By leveraging services such as Twitter and Facebook organizations are able to reach entirely new demographics with both emergency information and preparedness messages. A very large portion of our society is actively engaged in one or more of these networks.
As emergency managers we are very accustomed to carrying our Blackberry or other assigned smartphone with us 24/7/365. We are also used to regularly seeing 12 year olds updating Facebook on their iPhones at grocery store checkout lines. Everyone has a smart phone these days, right? Not so fast… As FoxNews reports, market surveys from last year show that 73% of all cell phone sales in the United States were “Feature Phones”. Feature Phones, also now referred to as “dumb phones”, do not support applications or true web browsing. Users of these phones do not have access to data plans, Twitter, or Facebook.
So if we are utilizing social media platforms as a primary distribution method of our agency’s content how do we reach this 73% of the cell phone carrying public? The answer comes to us directly from Twitter. In the summer of 2010 Twitter began to offer a service called “Fast Follow” that allows an individual to send a text message to a short message code and receive your messages as text messages on their handset. There is nothing required of your agency in order to support this service however it would be highly beneficial to ensure that you market the service on your agency’s website and any printed outreach materials.
In order for an individual to subscribe to your agency’s Twitter stream via Fast Follow they simply need to send a text message to “40404” with “Follow @AgencyTwitterAcct”. The end result is a free text notification platform that can be utilized to augment traditional social media followers and/or provide a free stand-in for a full featured emergency notification system for jurisdictions that do not have the funding to procure such a system. The Arizona Division of Emergency Management has done an excellent job of marketing Fast Follow as a way to reach those without smart phones and/or without Twitter accounts. Realizing that people that would likely subscribe using the Fast Follow feature may not have unlimited text messaging as part of their cellular plans, Arizona actually has created a separate Twitter account just for their more significant tweets to be passed to Fast Follow users. I commend Arizona for leading the way in the marketing of this feature and highly encourage all other agencies to also incorporate it into their outreach efforts.