Got this from my insurance company interesting read on social media... https://www.usaa.com/inet/ent_blogs..._social_media&EID=corp_cc_2012_09_Under250-14 By Jessica Findell, Social Media Community Manager Consider this: A Category 1 hurricane is headed your way in the next 48 hours. While no mandatory evacuation has been issued, your local news station has been broadcasting "be prepared" messages every minute, and you are positive that your family is ready to brave the storm. With your checklist in hand you begin to go down the list: Board up all windows and doorways — CHECK! Stock your pantry with a week's worth of canned food and water, flashlight batteries, candles and a first-aid kit — CHECK! Log in to Facebook and Twitter — CHE — Wait ... WHAT?! That's right. Believe it or not, social media can be your lifeline the next time a natural disaster strikes. Having been involved with USAA's catastrophe communications via social media channels for the past year, I've come to understand how these tools can be used for much more than socializing. They become your aggregate source for up-to-date news and alerts and let you inform friends and family quickly of your whereabouts. So before the next hurricane, tornado, flash flood or wildfire threatens your area, take these steps to get your social media disaster plan ready: We are family. Figure out who needs to be included on your list of emergency contacts: immediate family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. Once you have the list established, be sure you know each other's Twitter handles and/or are friends on Facebook. If you don't do this, you'll have a more difficult time staying in contact after a catastrophe hits. To tweet, or not to tweet? That is the question. Once you've set up your emergency contact list, deciding which social media channel you and your contacts will use to stay in touch is key. You may be an avid Twitter user, but if the majority of your contacts prefer Facebook you may want to adopt the latter as your primary source of communication and reserve Twitter for news alerts. Of course, don't tweet while driving. Even if you're stuck in traffic while evacuating, let a passenger send the tweet, make the post or send the text message. If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again. It's always a good idea to have a backup plan, or two, in place in case your primary or secondary course of action fails. You know the saying, "third time's a charm?" What if Twitter's API (the application programming interface that allows you to communicate) is acting up or your Facebook app isn't loading your private message? You want to make sure you have other methods in place to communicate. Notify me IMMEDIATELY. Whether you have an iPhone®, BlackBerry, Android or feature phone, most smartphones give you the option to set up push notifications or SMS (text) alerts for any new messages or updates in your social media channel of choice. Make sure that you have these options turned on in both the channel browser and your mobile device. Ready, set, CHARGE ... your mobile devices. Kind of a duh, right? But this is something that can all too easily be forgotten. Make sure you keep all of your mobile devices plugged in, so they'll be fully charged if you lose power. You can also buy solar-powered portable mobile charging devices that do not require a three-prong plug. They cost from $30 to $60 each, but they are well worth the investment. After you've figured out the most appropriate social media channel for everyone to use, it's time to adopt these best practices: Be my friend. Follow/Friend local government and volunteer agencies as well as news stations. Why? Because they will provide news, warnings and advice specific to your area. Know your hashtags. If you're using Twitter, knowing or establishing a common hashtag is crucial. A hashtag is the pound sign (#) in front of a word or phrase that connects people and allows you to search for alerts by way of Twitter. For example, most recently the Dallas-Fort Worth area saw a huge number of tornadoes. A common hashtag used to connect conversations about the event was #DFWTornadoes. Privacy please. Public conversation is great in social media, but if you're communicating something personal (your location, status of your home, etc.) send a direct message on Twitter or a private message on Facebook. You never know when a potential looter may be lurking in the public spaces of social media. Now that you have these steps under your belt, you're well on your way to creating one whizz-bang social media disaster plan. Of course, you can always tweak these guidelines to suit your individual needs. And remember to follow USAA on Facebook and Twitter for additional disaster preparedness tips and updates if you face a catastrophe in your area.