After the tragic Boston Marathon bombings took place, everyone within our nation and abroad was immediately aware of what took place. Within just a week’s time, authorities, officials and the media worked around the clock to solve the crime and inform the people. Now that we can reflect on what took place, there is definitely some discussion on what news sources were the most credible throughout the whole process. Where did you turn to for your news on the Boston Marathon bombings?

If you paid close attention to the news reports throughout the crisis, you probably noticed that you were receiving information at a much faster rate than any other previous crises. Not to mention, you were probably seeking/receiving it from multiple sources, including social media. In the age of social media, we are used to getting our information now. In situations like the Boston bombings, the added pressure of the rapid pace at which social media churns information had traditional (and respected) news media all a flurry.

In the rush to be the first to report breaking news, the Huffington Post said, “Whether the coverage was on television, in print or online, facts were misreported, suspects were misidentified, and presumptions were made about unknown motives.” The online news source even admitted its own fault by saying, “The Huffington Post slipped up grappling, like many other outlets, with the sheer volume of information that was posted online and shared through social media within seconds.” The misreporting of the Boston bombings became so bad, that this situation ended up being news in itself. Among some of the false reports, CNN had reported that there was a third bombing at the JFK Library, which ended up being an unrelated fire. The Wall Street Journal had reported that five additional explosive devices were found around Boston, which turned out to be false. Some of the most respected media in the business today found themselves slipping up on facts to beat their competitors to the punch or uncover news that had not been reported yet.

Aside from the lack of journalism ethics in the reporting during the Boston bombings, we saw how powerful social media has become in playing a role in crises. People tuned in to live streams of police scanners, furiously reporting every play-by-play on Reddit and Twitter. They also took to Facebook and Twitter to send their condolences, express their anger and form discussions about what had happened during the bombings. Even the Boston Police Department has a Twitter handle, @Boston_Police, and used that as their communications channel to report that the second suspect had been captured. The tweet read, “CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody.”

In terms of social media, the Boston bombings teach all of us that the use of social media is at an all-time high and in some cases, has taken the place of traditional media. If your business or company does not have a social media presence, it is important that you consider joining today. We have to accept that social media is yet another channel we need to be mindful of when crises occur. If a crisis occurs at your company, you want to be in control of the facts that are being disseminated and part of that can be accomplished through social media, just as the Boston PD did. Rumors and misinformation can spread at a rapid pace through social media and you need to be on there to monitor. This helps you correct wrong reporting, prepare statements and gauge overall public reaction.

Social media isn’t just for crises though. It helps companies connect with their audiences, disseminate information, reach people it can’t through traditional media and get public reaction. However, it is very easy to get carried away on social media. At the basic level, your company needs to decide exactly how it wants to use its social channels. Do you want to use it for recruiting talent? Deals, discounts or sales? Company announcements? Once you decide what kind of information you want to share through your social channels, the next decision is how often will you post on your social channels? If you have a dedicated social media strategist, it is easy to update your social channels several times a day. Whatever timing you decide, keep it consistent.

After you start your social media channels, there are so many creative ways on how to fully utilize each channel to your benefit. Don’t wait a moment longer. Start creating your company’s social media presence now!

Article contributed by Shelcie Takenouchi

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