S110 An Analysis of Social Media Services at NWS Louisville to Enhance Forecast Operations and High-Impact Weather Event Decision Support

Sunday, 22 January 2017
4E (Washington State Convention Center )
Robert Prestley, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA; and R. Steve and K. Deitsch

Handout (863.0 kB)

Social media has become an integral part of daily communication in the 21st century. The National Weather Service (NWS) began using social media on an experimental basis in 2012 to increase public awareness of weather-related phenomena. Since 2012, social media usage by the NWS has increased, and in November 2015 the NWS office in Louisville, KY created a dedicated decision support services (DSS) desk as part of an effort to place a greater emphasis on social media.

This study used analytic data to assess the effectiveness of the DSS desk, as well as a general overview of NWS Louisville’s Twitter posts from August 2014 to May 2016. Ten high-impact weather events (four short-fuse, six long-fuse) were looked at in greater detail by examining posts within a week of each event.

The DSS desk was effective in leading to more frequent posting and greater average daily reach, as post frequency and average reach per day increased by roughly 30% since implementation of the DSS desk. In general, posts during calm weather reached 1,000-5,000 users, while posts during high-impact events reached more than 50,000. Short-fuse events (e.g. summer convection) tended to have a sharp peak in engagement within 24 hours of the event. Engagement in long-fuse events (e.g. winter storms, flooding) was more evenly spread within 48-72 hours of the event, but with a noticeable lack of posting in the 24-48 hour range before the event. Engagement varied for post types and classifications, with photo posts engaged more than text or link posts. Forecast posts are only part of a complete social media strategy, as posts about interesting but not necessarily impactful weather reached more people, on average, than solely forecast-related posts.

These findings are applicable to other NWS offices, as they provide guidance on which types of posts reach the most users, and suggest a timeline for posting during different weather events. These practices will help to optimize social media services in NWS operations throughout significant events to maximize user awareness and response.

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