WWWhat's Trending: Scientists Go ‘Social’ with Sandy, An Award-Winning Campaign
New York Coastlines, Summer 2013

This past Spring, New York Sea Grant (NYSG)’s Web Content Manager Paul C. Focazio – pictured at far left, along with Jaci Clement, Fair Media Council’s (FMC) Executive Director and Folio Awards co-host Steve Scott, WCBS Newsradio 880 Anchor – was recognized for the program’s "Social-Minded Science for Superstorm Sandy" campaign.

FMC’s annual Folio Awards program is adjudicated by panels of metro NY community leaders. “Their personal commitment to the betterment of the community enables them to judge entries with an emphasis on news and information that is most relevant to the public,” says Clement. “Because the public is the judge, earning a Folio Award is among the highest of honors.”

In mid-July, Focazio was an invited speaker on the panel discussion "How Social Media Benefited Our Organizations” at FMC’s Social Media Bootcamp. In addition to highlighting the success of New York Sea Grant's "Superstorm Sandy Social Media" campaign, Focazio offered some post-Sandy analysis, which was also one of the prime topics at the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s annual conference in New York City this past spring, as covered in the June 2013 news item, "NYSG Joins Some 600+ Attendees at MWA's Annual NYC Conference." As discussed on one of the panels during this day-long event, when Superstorm Sandy hit in late October 2012, Stony Brook University Oceanography professor and storm surge expert Malcolm Bowman, along with investigator Brian Colle and others from the Storm Surge Research Group, kept close tabs on the superstorm before, during and after landfall. The raw scientific data the Group collects from storms like Sandy appears on their NYSG-sponsored Web site, which received over 1.1 million visitor hits during the last 12 months (September 2012 - August 2013), with much of the activity centered around Sandy (with an average of 9,250 hits per day in October 2012; Sandy made landfall in the New York area on October 29, 2012).

For a complete archive of the Group's Superstorm Sandy media coverage – including video clips, audio segments and PDFs of feature and news stories – check out NYSG's related news item, "More Superstorm Sandy Media Mentions From NYSG-Funded Researchers and Specialists."

— Paul C. Focazio

Focazio's Sandy Social Media Stats

Before, during and after landfall of Sandy late last October, NYSG's funded Stony Brook University (SBU) researchers kept close tabs on the storm. And so, with all the results and analysis that they [Drs. Malcolm Bowman, Brian Colle and other investigators] provided, it seemed a natural fit to not only repackage the content for NYSG's Web site, but also to create a social media campaign featuring a series of ‘digestible bites.’

During the height of the storm, NYSG’s Twitter and Facebook feeds were the primary avenues for providing information as many (including the University) lost power and network connections. In some cases, SBU’s Storm Surge Research Group was able to correct some of the storm-related inaccuracies reported about coastal flooding in lower Manhattan.

In addition to offering insight into the storm’s track, intensity and aftermath, NYSG’s campaign featured transcripts as well as audio and video clips from many of the media sources that featured Bowman and his colleagues – The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC News, ABC News, the Associated Press and Newsday, among others.

NYSG’s social media postings related to Superstorm Sandy represent some of our most-viewed content on Facebook and Twitter in 2012, with October 28th being the highest ranked day of that year. And by the close of the year, both of these NYSG social media pages added several hundred new followers – approximately 80 on and 200 on Twitter Facebook (20 and 60 of which, respectively, were made in the week of Sandy’s impact).

Facebook also saw over a 865% increase in visitors between October 25 – November 2, 2012, with over 125 new visitors and 67 re-postings of our content in those 9 days. In the days leading up to Sandy (October 19-25), this page was attracting around 162 visitors a day. By October 29, 1,406 visitors had eyes on NYSG’s Facebook page. This was the highest viewing day of the entire year.

In the two month following Sandy, NYSG provided over 50 Facebook posts and nearly 100 Twitter tweets related to the storm. On Facebook alone, over 5,500 visitors clicked through the featured content, with even several peak days into mid-November and mid-December.  

NYSG’s hurricane resource site (www.nyseagrant.org/hurricane) underwent quite the transformation after Sandy, with the addition of numerous links to NYSG's news on research and education as well as tips people could use from a variety of our partner organizations – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), CCE NY Extension Disaster Education Network, the National Sea Grant College Program, and more. The site also features access to disaster help via the FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency, and others; Information for teachers, students and kids; and Ways that everyone can help those in need.

Some of Focazio's Social Media Tips

  • BE TIMELY … When the news cycles are focusing on certain topics that are pertinent to what you’re doing is when it’s time for you to STRIKE. For example, Sea Grant’s parent organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, runs a “National Severe Weather Preparedness Week” in early March, a “National Severe Weather Preparedness Week” in mid-April and “Hurricane Preparedness Week” at the end of May, which is when they release their predictions for the upcoming hurricane season.

    These are the times when we decided to create a series of smaller campaigns to summarize “What Sea Grant did and continued to do” – content included a summary one-pager [see handout] as well as several Web site news items, followed by Facebook and Twitter posts spread out through these periods.

  • TIMING (AND BRANDING) IS EVERYTHING … Don’t assume that every bit of your content on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (or any other social media platform) is being seen by everyone.

    If you write a larger story for your newsletter or Web site, post out a link to it on social media. And then, either later in the day or over several days following, break up the story into additional posts with pictures and captions, always linking back to the original article and then to any other related locations on your site, such as a resource section that serves as a ‘catch-all’ on a particular topic.

    Remember that an engaging picture can do a great deal to draw people into what you have to say.

    In my running example, our ‘resource section’ would be NYSG’s Hurricane Education site, www.nyseagrant.org/hurricane. Having a succinct, easy-to-market URL always helps – to reinforce your brand, help people remember what you’re offering and keep them coming back for more once they consider you a “reputable” source.

  • SAY ‘THANK YOU’ … With all your efforts to post out new content on your social media platforms, you are sure to generate interest from people and organizations that align with (or, at least relate to) your brand.

    So, be sure to thank them – Fridays are known as ‘Follow Fridays,’ especially on Twitter, so be sure to call out new followers as well as those who retweet and favorite your content, using the #FF.

    On Facebook, it’s a good idea to tag organizations that like and repost your content in a single post. It is also a good idea to include a general thank you to all those who follow, have begun following you and/or like and repost your content. Also, make a mention that you’re also ‘thanking’ followers on Twitter on that day and provide a link to your page.

  • PLATFORM CROSS PROMOTION … After you do your #FF posts on Twitter and Facebook (being sure to mention your related Twitter activity in the Facebook post), take the opportunity with another post on Facebook to summarize some of the content you’ve been featuring there all week long.

    On NYSG’s Facebook page, I call these our “Social Media Week in Review” posts. Then, on Twitter, note that your summary of the week’s social media postings are up on your Facebook page. These practices help to bolster cross-platform promotion.

    In the print realm, create a postcard, bookmark or include links to these platforms on your business card and/or e-mail signature. Any all print or e-publications that you produce should make mention of your Web site and social media platforms. Your Web site should also serve as a repository for your social media platforms – including links and maybe even feeds to your pages.

  • TAG, YOU’RE IT … A way to increase eyes on your posts (= visitors) is to cite partners involved or organizations you may think would be interested in your post. And look up hash tags on both Twitter and Facebook to gauge their popularity. It will certainly help to include some of these in your posts, as they help to index posts on both platforms.

  • IS ALL THIS WORKING? … Keep tabs of your analytics (simply through the @Connect section on Twitter and in the Admin Panel on your Facebook page) to make sure that your efforts are bringing in enough retweets, new followers and total reach to justify all your efforts. There are also external services to these platforms to help you track and automate your posts – though you can do it right from your Facebook page by ‘scheduling’ posts. Some external services include TweetDeck and HootSuite (Twitter) and WebTrends Analytics (Facebook).

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