#Demand13 Liveblog: Red Cross’s Wendy Harman on Social Media

An examination of the Red Cross’s nationally recognized Social Media Command Center and world-renowned program. The session included tips on how to execute real-time response, crisis communications, cultivating stakeholders, monitoring and more.

Demand Success - Wendy HarmanThe American Red Cross has long given food, shelter and other necessities to people in the midst of their worst moments.

Now, the Red Cross’s aid also includes valuable information delivered via tweets and posts.

Red Cross Director of Social Strategy Wendy Harman took to the #Demand13 stage to share how the organization’s Digital Operations Center has revolutionized the way it helps people in need.

Much like marketers, the Red Cross needs help gathering actionable information, to adjust services quickly and distribute valuable information to the right people at the right time.

The Digital Operations Center helps it provide real-time situational awareness to disaster services, relay emergency messages to operators on the ground and deliver life-saving or comforting messages to people in the midst of disaster.

Here are four lessons the team has learned that marketers can benefit from too:

1. Identify gaps in service

It’s impossible to meet the needs of every individual who depends on your organization, but social media helps narrow the gap.

With a limited staff, the Red Cross can’t always provide timely information to everyone who tweets. That’s why they created a digital volunteer role, where people from all over the country can offer advice to the people in need.

“Right after a disaster happens, there is this intense personal desire to make some sort of effort to help,” Wendy says. “We’ve tried to come up with lots of different ways for people to help relief efforts even if they’re not there.”

2. Earn buy-in

In addition to getting the infrastructure they needed, the Red Cross needs buy-in from people to become a valuable, trusted resource on the social web.

After a series of tornadoes in Alabama, the Red Cross used social media to track gaps in service.

The Red Cross reacted by creating an organized spreadsheet and distributing it to organizations that could help. The gesture helped people buy into the overall mission of the social media efforts of the Red Cross.

3. Tear down walls

With social media’s uses expanding, businesses can no longer expect to use it just for PR and marketing.

Listening to customers on social allows organizations to see customer needs and stretch to reach them.

During Hurricane Sandy, one of the biggest questions the Red Cross faced was “Where is the Red Cross?”

“We were there with all of our might,” Wendy says. “But it’s very difficult to see that when you’re in such a dense population.”

By listening, the Red Cross realized that it needed to communicate the exact locations of services better, based on what communities were demanding.

4. Be transparent

Three of every four people who write a note on the Red Cross Facebook wall expect help to arrive within an hour.

“I would imagine it’s not too different for all the rest of you in your customer relations,” Wendy says.

When it takes longer than an hour to mobilize disaster relief to an area, the Red Cross uses social media to inform people until they get there, providing updates about what they are doing and working to connect people with more immediate help.

For more #Demand13 coverage, click here.