Your tourism megaphone: social media during natural disasters

Port Aransas Mustang Island Texas Facebook Page header photo after Hurricane Harvey

Screenshot of the Port Aransas and Mustang Island, Texas, Facebook Page header photo after the town took a direct hit from Hurricane Harvey.

How can tourism organizations best use social media after a natural disaster?

Normally, social media for destination marketing is all about enticing and welcoming visitors, but after disasters like hurricanes, wildfires, floods, or earthquakes, there is a different goal, at least in the short term.

What is needed before, during, and after a crisis is clear, accurate communications.

The most effective tourism organizations and their partners have a strong network of local support plus many local followers on social media, and that “digital megaphone” can be very helpful in spreading the word.

Don’t go dark on social media after a disaster.

Go brighter than ever.

Of course, visitors will want to know when they can return, but many will also want to know how they can help a devastated destination. Locals will look to you as a trusted information source, too.

Two of the smaller Texas towns that suffered a direct hit by Hurricane Harvey were Port Aransas/Mustang Island, and Rockport/Fulton. They are Gulf of Mexico coastal communities located just north of the larger city of Corpus Christi.

Here is how Visit Rockport Fulton is using their Facebook Page to highlight recovery needs, including answering visitor questions about contributions….

Tourism social media natural disasters Visit Rockport Fulton Texas Facebook Page interaction after Hurricane Harvey

Other Page posts give updates on the post-storm tourism infrastructure, making it clear that if anyone wants to visit to assist the town, they will need to be self-sufficient in an RV or tents, since hotels are not up and running yet.

Below is a similar exchange on the Port Aransas and Mustang Island Facebook Page, letting people know about a free meal for locals and volunteers, plus answering questions from a long-time visitor about how best to help….

Screenshot Port Aransas Texas Facebook Page interaction after Hurricane Harvey

Of course, Facebook is not the only social channel where tourism organizations and partners can be a reliable information source.

Twitter really comes into its own as a news and networking platform during a crisis, and it makes even more sense to use it as a visitor, guest, and customer service channel during a natural disaster.

—->> Tip:  Pay attention to which hashtags are best to use on Twitter. Do not clutter them up with generalities or fluff tweets, especially at the peak and right after an event, when the hashtags are being heavily used for crowd-sourced rescue and emergency information.

Don’t forget LinkedIn in your crisis communications plans, like this Hurricane Irma report shared by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association….

Screenshot Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association sharing hurricane report on LinkedIn

If you need some help with disaster planning, we recommend this free crisis communications download from our friend and PR professional Fran Stephenson. Fran teaches a class on crisis communications at the Travel & Tourism College run by TTA (Texas Travel Alliance.)

Stay safe out there!

Update:  Here’s an incredibly detailed Google Document showing restaurants how to prepare for disasters and be ready to cook mass meals, via Houston’s Midtown Kitchen Collective.


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Sept 2017 tourismchat graphic Joe Vargo Experience Columbus OH

Join us for the September 26 #tourismchat

This month’s chat guest host is DMO dynamo Joe Vargo with Experience Columbus, Ohio, on professional development and staying creative as a destination marketer.

Join us on Twitter on Tuesday, September 26 at 2 p.m. Central for this open, informative discussion. You’ll learn a lot and meet fellow travel and tourism pros.

#tourismchat has a Facebook Page if you want to keep up with chat announcements and let us know you’re attending.

Update – here is the chat transcript if you were unable to attend the live chat.

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