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Social Media Snow Day: How Canadians Use Twitter During Bad Winter Weather

Blog, Digital, Social Media | February 2, 2015

By the GCI Digital Team

Toronto Snow Storm Twitter

Freezing temperatures and blowing snow, treacherous driving and transit delays, cancelled classes and closed businesses. Welcome to winter in Canada!

When bad weather strikes, Canadians crave information that will help them get through the day. “How warmly will I have to dress?” “What roads should I avoid on my way to work?” etc. While the local weatherman was once the primary source for this info, many Canadians are increasingly turning off the TV and turning to social media for weather-related news.

So how are savvy Canadians using social networks like Twitter when the big storm hits and how can brands capitalize on the conversation and help consumers in the process?

Information and Reassurance

Lousy weather is a time of uncertainty, particularly when it comes to the little stuff.

Things that people take for granted when the weather is nice, like clear, accident-free roads or whether or not their child’s school bus is running, can become liabilities when a snowstorm rolls into town.

Social media can help folks mitigate that uncertainty and find answers much quicker than with traditional news sources. It’s now common practice for institutions like school boards and power companies to use their social channels to keep parents and customers up to date and in the loop with regard to school closures and electrical outages. Why wait to hear about Billy’s snow day from the radio when the Toronto District School Board can let you know directly?

TDSB TweetBC Hydro Tweet

Similarly, businesses both large and small often use their official Twitter and Facebook pages to advise customers about closures, service interruptions or storm-related sales. When you’re buried in several feet of snow, that flash sale on snow shovels that the local hardware store advertised on Twitter might be a godsend.

But here’s where the power of social media really shines: When institutions or businesses aren’t able to provide updates through their social channels, the “citizen journalism” of individual users comes into play. A person taking to Twitter at the right time can actually do a lot of good during inclement weather. For example, someone tweeting from the scene of a weather-related vehicle collision with the appropriate hashtags (eg. #401 or #DVP) might prevent other Twitter users from deciding to take the Don Valley Parkway that morning and thus improve congestion or even prevent further accidents. Knowing which hashtags are relevant to you during a snowstorm is key.

Another example of this sort of crowd sourced help could be seen during New York City’s recent snowstorm, colloquially known by hashtags like #snowpocalypse, #Snowmageddon2015, and #blizzardof2015. Live tweets about lineups and food shortages at grocery stores, like the one seen below, may have many given people second thoughts about braving the cold and likely lessened the severity of said shortages.

NYC Snow Storm Tweet

So what can brands do during the big storm?

Brands need to understand that no matter what product or service they offer in a given area, most, if not all, of their customers are going to be affected by the bad weather in some way.

While it’s inadvisable for a consumer brand to turn its social channels into feeds for weather-related info sharing, a helpful share or retweet about a closed road or downed power line that might affect the brand’s market and customers can’t hurt.

Ideally, the best thing a brand or company can do during a bad winter storm is tap into the shared experience of the blizzard in a way that’s relevant to said brand, fun and shareable, and doesn’t make the consumer’s day any worse than it already is.

Here are a few fantastic examples tied to the New York snowstorm:

McDonald's Snow Storm Tweet

Guinness Snow Storm TweetYes, it may be cold and miserable outside, but an existing or potential customer is definitely going to remember the smile your brand put on their face when the weather warms up.

(Disclosure: BC Hydro and Guinness are GCI clients)