Social media, another tool in the toolbox for the fire service. Part One – Introduction

Public image, it is what can make or break a fire department and where sits in the hearts of the general public. With today’s heavy use of social media, the actions of firefighters and what they do on social media can affect that image both in a positive way and also in a negative way. The goal of reading this is to help you make the right choices when thinking about posting on social media on behalf of your department.

Your social media presence, how you present yourself on line, and the tools you use are crucial to how you image is kept. At the end of the day, whether you are a volunteer, composite, or career department, to Joe public you are PROFESSIONALS and you are THE fire department. Personally nothing drives me crazier than when a person posts about activities on behalf of the fire department on their personal accounts. This looks unprofessional, disorganized and based on your privacy settings of the post, it is something that may not be able to be shared easily, limiting your impact. Having one source of information, one account that all your information comes from is something that shows greater validity to followers.

Social media takes many forms but we will focus on the primary two social media networks, Facebook & Twitter.

Facebook is undoubtedly the primary social media choice of the general population. It is the network that provides the most interaction amongst you and the general public. It is the one that most people use on their mobile devices, check frequently and rely on to see what is going on in their community.  Facebook allows you quick easy access to create  posts to keep readers engaged, allowing you to have posts show up on someone’s time line vs waiting for someone to visit your web page. As of March 2014 Facebook boasts 1.28 billion active uses (Wikipedia)

Twitter, while next in line for most popular social media network, only boasts about 200 Million active users as of September 2013(Wikipedia). Just like anything, Twitter has Pros and Cons over Facebook. On twitter you will find more die hard social media users, professional users, organizations, corporations, and mainstream media users. Twitter has proven to be a valuable tool in major incidents such as Forrest fires, train derailments, natural disasters etc. It is a tool that if you need to get you message out to the masses, with the right followers, it can be done very quickly.

Over the next few days I hope to show that social media, when used properly, can be beneficial to your department.

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