NHC Chooses Sides in Social Media Discussion

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This is something we’ve talked about over and over here at WHNT News 19: Facebook stinks as a method of receiving weather warnings.

It’s not that Facebook is a bad way to communicate and find news and weather information; the problem is in how Facebook shows you information. Earlier this week, I posted this on my fan page:

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So what’s the big deal, why not post ALL warnings to Facebook? Same week, different day:

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Do you see the disconnect here?

We do post some warning information to Facebook, but since it shows up in your newsfeed at different times (sometimes days later), we try not to just simply post generic warning information like “Tornado Warning for Madison County until 10:50 PM” or “Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Lauderdale County until 4:25 PM.” Depending on when it comes into your newsfeed, it could get very, very confusing.

On the other hand, if you interact with my page often, you would see those warnings in near real-time. I’ve got nearly 40,000 fans on Facebook. Nowhere near 40,000 see my posts every day; Facebook allows only about 2,000 to 8,000 to see most posts. The really good ones that get shared a lot may reach 20,000 to 30,000, so just “liking” the page doesn’t mean you’ll see what I’m posting.

The National Hurricane Center has noticed this as well, and they’re recommending the same thing we are: don’t rely on Facebook for emergency information!

On Friday, International Business Times  published an article entitled “Twitter Weather Updates More Valuable Than Facebook Announcements:”  

Given the limitations, the NHC said it can’t rely on the world’s most popular social network as a primary way of disseminating time-sensitive information. In an email, Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and the NHC’s public affairs officer, said people might have better luck on Twitter, which doesn’t filter its users’ tweets. “In some sense, Twitter is more valuable to us,” Feltgen said. “Because everyone who follows our Twitter accounts will receive a tweet whenever we issue a new tropical cyclone advisory, directing them to the NHC Web page for more information.”

According to Feltgen, statistics from the last month show that NHC updates are being seen by an average of 40,000 people, or only 16 percent of its Facebook fan base. For many page administrators the drop has been even more severe. Earlier this week, some local meteorologists — including Denis Phillips of ABC Action News in Tampa, Florida — told IBTimes that the decline of organic reach has affected their ability to share important weather updates with their communities. The growing chorus of complaints raises questions about Facebook’s usefulness as a place for real-time news consumption — an issue sometimes lost in the organic-reach debate, which tends to center on frustrated marketers and businesses angry over being asked to pay money to reach their fans.

(Read the rest of the article at ibtimes.com)

So, when you see me say something about how Facebook is not a good way to get a warning, you see that it’s not just me. It’s affecting everyone, and if you are using Facebook as your only source of weather information – you need to think twice!

It works great on quiet days. If you just want to know the forecast, it’s probably going to pop in your feed at some point. If you’re waiting on a warning, you might get it after a tornado has blown through – sometimes even DAYS later.

Twitter and our live blogs here on Valleywx.com are our weather team’s go-to method for online communication. We do tweet all Severe Thunderstorm and Tornado Warnings from our accounts; follow us – even if it’s just during times of severe weather:

@whnt
@simpsonwhnt
@BChambersWX
@BenSmith_WHNT
@jakewhnt19

If you would like to do Twitter but don’t understand how it works, let me know. I’m happy to help get you up to speed on it. If you just don’t do Twitter because you don’t want to, then follow our blog – we keep this thing HOT during severe weather and winter weather.

There are ways to do it without social media as well. The mainstay and our primary focus is still television coverage during Tornado Warnings and other life-threatening situations.

You can watch streaming coverage on WHNT.com as well as through some of our mobile application offerings and recommendations:

WHNT.com’s Maps & Radar Page
Mobile Applications
Baron Saf-T-Net

We will always strive to give you timely information on ALL platforms, but the evidence against Facebook in need-to-know situations is mounting. Don’t be caught with old information when you need new updates the most!

-Jason
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