James Spann on Social Media

For all the weather geeks out there, James Spann is a man that everyone turns to when it comes to all things related to Alabama weather.  Over a career that spans nearly 40 years, Spann has solidified himself as the model study for meteorologists. He’s an Emmy winner, the recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award, and has been voted best meteorologist in the country numerous times by the Associated Press.

On top of all this, James Spann is a social media advocate. He is the most followed meteorologists on Twitter and Facebook and on the day of April 26, 2011 as tornadoes roared through Alabama, thousands of people were posting on his social media outlets to report damage and even ask for help. Even if you don’t know who James Spann is or you’re not a weather nerd like me, you’ll find the video below as interesting as I did.  At the Alabama Social Media Association conference earlier this year, James addressed the Alabama media about the use of social media in a weather situation.

  • "If you put others first, that’s when life gets good." As a meteorologist, James often has to field questions from those who do not know much about weather, how storms form, or how they track. Rather than ignore the “stupid question” James answers them because that’s what he is there for. When a question is posed to him it’s because someone respects and needs his answer, so he answers.
  • This is how the world communicates. We often wonder if automation is good or bad in social media and James has found that his determination is based on the expectations of his audience. In high stress situations where response is critical to life and person (like EF-4 tornadoes bearing down on metropolitan areas) automation doesn’t work. People can tell when a message is automated and the expectation on a network like Twitter is that the updates are "real-time". The opposite has proven true for Facebook as the network, at least in his business, is more about sharing the information than looking for up to date information.
  • Let’s be honest. James Spann is, in fact, James Spann and people are going to follow him, they are going to send him information, and he will have questions to answer and a huge network of people that will help him do good. We don’t all have that and our experience on Twitter or Facebook might be different, but no matter what, these are basic foundations to any successful social media plan.

I’ve shared the video because I find it to be an interesting commentary on social media from someone who is, technically, “not in it to make money.” Social media is simply a tool for James and the rest of the ABC 33/40 staff to provide weather updates and, as you’ll see, much more. The length is 45 minutes but the information is great and James is such a great communicator that he’s very easy to listen to.

Tell me what you think – do you feel that social media is a good platform for a meteorologist to embrace to warn the public? Is it a good place for someone in marketing or business development? James certainly feels like his updates and social media activities saved lives on the day of a historic tornado outbreak. Do you think it’s possible for Twitter, Facebook, and other social channels to make that much of an impact, or are James’ situations the exception to the rule?

That super sweet image of James telling you to obey the polygon is credit to his Google + account

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