Oklahoma forecasters use social media to inform followers
The National Weather Service in Norman created Facebook and Twitter accounts last year to help engage Oklahoma weather fanatics and provide timely information. Forecasters talk about how social media has helped the way they report weather.
A conversation is taking place on social media and weather experts are doing more than taking notice.
Since one of the biggest talking points in Oklahoma is weather, forecasters have stepped up their social media efforts to engage with the public.
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May 11The National Weather Service in Norman created a Facebook...
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“Weather, especially here, is such a big deal. People like to talk about the weather. Social media is giving us an avenue to make that a two-way conversation,” said Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist for the Norman forecast office.
Rise of social media
Smith said the National Weather Service's Norman office created its Facebook page in February 2011 to share weather information and forecast graphics. Four months later, it started a Twitter account.
Over time Facebook has taken on a conversational role, while Twitter is used more for constant updates, Smith said.
He said the Norman office is one of a few across the country the National Weather Service selected to experiment with Twitter and examine the pros and cons.
“Neither Facebook or Twitter seem to be a big drain on time or resources,” Smith said.
Currently, the Norman office isn't posting warnings and watches on Facebook or Twitter, but Smith said social media will sometimes be used to warn people when a dangerous storm is headed in a certain direction.
When a tornado hit Norman on April 13, Smith was in the forecast office and able to access Twitter to warn people and tell them to take shelter. His tweet was retweeted, spreading the message to hundreds and maybe even thousands of followers.
However, Smith said people shouldn't depend on social media for weather alerts. Being equipped with multiple ways to receive information is best, he said.
Another benefit to using social media has been the interaction with people who follow the Norman office and are interested in weather, Smith said.
“I think that's one of the values of it, trying to let people know there are people in the office and we live where you live. Trying to put a face or personality on what has been thought of as a stodgy government agency. Trying to build more personal relationships and let people know we're here,” Smith said.
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