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How the Fiji Meteorological Service uses social media

Some of the people behind the Fiji Meteorological Service. Source: Facebook. Photo used with permission

How do weather forecasters maximize social media in their work? Global Voices posed this question to the Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS) to learn more about how they use social media to share information about the weather and climate science in the South Pacific nation.

FMS has accounts on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, where it has more than 131,000 followers. Ana Degei, FMS’ media liaison officer, told Global Voices in an email that the Service “would like to keep working at increasing the numbers so we can at least reach every social media user in Fiji’s populace.” Fiji's population is 902, 224, according to United Nations data.

FMS recognizes the value of using platforms like Facebook to fulfill its mission:

The Fiji Meteorological Service recognises that social media is a very useful tool not only to inform our audience but it can also be used as a feedback mechanism that allows us as an essential service provider to gauge what is working and what is not and the exact needs of our customers, through their comments and messages.

We don’t only use social media to inform our users of the weather and climate forecasts or of impending severe weather events but we also use it to create awareness around the work that we do, the technicalities and the science behind it and also on the brilliant people that work silently behind the scenes.

Indeed, FMS’ Facebook and Twitter posts are not just weather bulletins—they also highlight the agency’s activities, such as training workshops, water-level monitoring, and daily forecasting sessions. They recently paid tribute to journalists on World Press Freedom Day by acknowledging them as community partners in informing the public about FMS’ work:

FMS also acknowledged the contribution of its women meteorologists on International Women's Day:

Asked about some of the lessons they have learned from using social media, Ana Degei highlighted the importance of engagement:

The best feature or value about social media is engagement. If you put an information out there using social media, you will know whether or not people are reading it, whether or not they are using it or if it’s no interest to them at all.

She explained why accuracy and clarity are important for weather agencies that promote content through social media:

When posting an update, make sure to keep it as less technical as possible. Keep it short and simple.

Post accuracy and timeliness are very important, especially when you’re using social media to inform the public about severe weather and climate events. A life could depend on it or a livelihood could depend on it.

One example of content that aims to educate the public about climate science is an FMS Facebook post about weather balloons. The post, which was widely shared in Fiji, was written in plain language that could be easily understood by ordinary people. Here's an excerpt of the post:

Did you know that Fiji Met. releases a weather balloon twice a day?

Twice a day, every day of the year, the Fiji Meteorological Service releases a weather balloon at 11am and 11pm.

The balloon flights last for around 1 ½ to 2 hours and can rise up to 100,000 ft. (about 32 kilometres) in the atmosphere!

Weather balloons are the primary source of data above the ground. They provide valuable input for computer forecast models, local data for meteorologists to make forecasts and data for research.

Lastly, we asked FMS how netizens could help them in fulfilling their work.

To provide feedbacks to the Fiji Meteorological Service- they could be our eyes and ears on the ground.

Take appropriate actions with the warning messages that they receive from the Fiji Meteorological Service and help others do the same.

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