Why emergency managers should 'like' Facebook's new 'Like' button

April 23rd, 2010

There’s a new networking tool that could prove vital for government officials and emergency managers who want important information to reach a lot more people. Facebook unveiled its ‘Like’ button this week, which, in short, gives users the potential to ‘like’ anything on the internet. Yup. Anything. Web developers just need to attach customizable code to pieces of content and *poof* … it’s ‘like’ time.

What does that mean, and why is it important? Facebook will start cataloging internet content. Brennan Satterly at PC World says "Facebook is integrating user experiences on external sites with Facebook’s news feed, effectively transforming what used to be a solitary browsing experience into a sprawling network of connectivity."

And Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore says "Facebook is in a position to build the world’s best search engine: One that delivers results based on your friendships and interests. The launch of the "Like" button, meanwhile, means that Facebook will know more about your individual preferences than ever before."

That’s where the privacy concerns come in. Experts urge individual Facebook users to check their privacy settings and read up on how and when information is shared.

EMs: here’s why you should care

What’s critical to understand about this new feature is that off-Facebook content can be disseminated and shared on Facebook with one click, a marriage between ease-of-use and the elements of interactivity that helped Facebook grow to more than 400 million users worldwide. The messy formatting and wall-post clutter spawned by ‘Share on Facebook’ have gone by the wayside.

For emergency managers, the ‘Like’ button is an opportunity to get on board with an innovative social media tool that capitalizes on existing networks to distribute important information. Start by attaching the ‘Like’ code to evergreen safety tips pages on your website, e.g., "Flooding preparedness tips," "What to do in a power outage," "The 10 items you need in your home during a blizzard," etc. When people visit those pages, or when EMs send out links to those pages at appropriate times during the year, every ‘Like’ click means that page is linked somewhere on the most popular social network in the world, which will only drive more traffic directly to the information EMs want as many people as possible to see. That’s the crux of social networking: tapping millions of users who are capable of propagating relevant content, thus perpetually reaching people who might otherwise be inaccessible through traditional communication.

Social media experts frequently note that social networking is an important resource for professionals like EMs and first responders because that’s how people communicate today. If you want real-time data on what people in your town are saying about an event, no matter the significance, check Twitter or Facebook, or any other widely-used social media tool. The ‘Like’ button could become a gold standard for content sharing, so now’s the time to try it out.

You never know, you might just get results.


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