Social Media and Crisis Communication


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Guest lecture presented at the University of Helsinki, 12 Oct. 2012.

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Social Media and Crisis Communication

  1. 1. Social Media and Crisis CommunicationAssoc. Prof. Axel BrunsARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and InnovationQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbane,
  2. 2. Social Media during Criseso Various platforms: o Facebook, Twitter – updates and information o YouTube, Flickr, Twitpic – first-hand video and photos o Google Maps, Ushahidi – map-based information mashups  Different tools for different purposeso Various levels of maturity: o Uses and use practices still developing o Different demographic reacho Technological differences: o e.g. Facebook: built around personal networks; semi-private; discussion threads o e.g. Twitter: open, flat network; public #hashtag conversations; update stream
  3. 3. Why Twitter?o Researching Twitter: o Significant world-wide social network o ~200 million users (but how many active?) o ~2 million users in Australia o Varied range of uses: from everyday communication to emergency coordination o Flat and open network structure: non-reciprocal following, public profiles by default o Hashtags as a flexible, ad hoc response mechanism o Good API for gathering data for research and operational use  How can Twitter be used for crisis information and community resilience?
  4. 4. The 2011 Queensland Floodso Chronology: o December 2010 to January 2011: unprecedented rainfall o Emergency declared for more than 50% of Queensland o Wivenhoe dam reaches 180% capacity o December 2010: Flooding in northern Queensland o January 2011: Floods in southeast Queensland o 10 January 2011: flash flooding in Toowoomba o 10 January 2011: ‘inland tsunami’ in the Lockyer Valley o 11 January 2011: flooding begins in Ipswich o 12-16 January 2011: major flooding in Brisbane
  5. 5. (Google Maps)
  6. 6. (Google Maps)
  7. 7. (ABC News)
  8. 8. (ABC News)
  9. 9. (
  10. 10. (ABC News)
  11. 11. (ABC News)
  12. 12. (ABC News)
  13. 13. #qldfloods Tweets10 Jan 2011 11 Jan 2011 12 Jan 2011 13 Jan 2011 14 Jan 2011 15 Jan 2011
  14. 14. #qldfloods from Toowoomba to Brisbane10 Jan 2011 11 Jan 2011 12 Jan 2011 13 Jan 2011 14 Jan 2011 15 Jan 2011
  15. 15. #qldfloods @mentions authorities mainstream media
  16. 16. The Queensland Floods Communityo Self-organisation: o Rapid establishment of #qldfloods hashtag o Ad hoc development of community structures o Highlighting of leading accounts, vigilant against disruption o Suspension of petty squabbles (e.g. state politics)o Innovation and rapid prototyping: o Adjunct hashtags (#Mythbuster, #bakedrelief) o Sharing and gathering of online resources o Additional tools (Google Maps, Ushahidi Maps) o Emergency services rapidly adopting social media tools (despite lack of established strategies) ‘Go where they are’ rather than ‘build it and they will come’ See CCI Report: #qldfloods and @QPSMedia: Crisis Communication on Twitter in the 2011 South East Queensland Floods (
  17. 17. Major Information Sources Remain Important@sunriseon7 @couriermail @612brisbane @QPSMedia @abcnews
  18. 18. Message Amplification on Twitter
  19. 19. Just the Facts: Selective Retweeting
  20. 20. What Links Are Shared?
  21. 21. What Do Users Tweet About during a Crisis?
  22. 22. Content Patterns: #qldfloods vs. @QPSMedia
  23. 23. Retweet Rates in @QPSMedia Conversations
  24. 24. Beyond the Queensland Floodso Further outlook: o Need to build on #qldfloods experience o Maintain momentum of @QPSMedia and other lead accounts o Review what did/didn’t work, improve communication strategies o Analyse and work with community communication patternso Cultivate potential lead users: o Who (institutions / individuals) was most active / influential? o How can they be identified as crises unfold? o Are they the usual suspects (e.g. community leaders), or not? o How stable are such communication structures? Will social media use look similar next time around?
  25. 25. 2010/11 Christchurch Earthquakeso Series of earthquakes: o 4 Sep. 2010 – M7.1 o Major structural damage, limited injuries o 22 Feb. 2011 – M6.3 o Substantial devastation, major casualties o 13 June 2011 – M6.3 o Major aftershock, further liquefaction o 23 Dec. 2011 – M5.1-6.0 o Major aftershockso Significant use of social media – e.g. Twitter: #eqnz
  26. 26. (NZ Herald)
  27. 27. (NZ Herald)
  28. 28. (NZ Herald)
  29. 29. #eqnz: Number of Unique Users Discussing the 2010/11 Earthquakes
  30. 30. Twitter and the 22 Feb. Christchurch Earthquake: #eqnz
  31. 31. #eqnz: Contribution by Different User Groups (22 Feb.-7 Mar.)
  32. 32. #eqnz: @replies Received (Including Manual Retweets; 22 Feb.-7 Mar.) mainstream news authorities utilities
  33. 33. #eqnz: Manual Retweets and @replies (22 Feb.-7 Mar.)o Changing @reply patterns with the move from rescue to recovery: 22-24 Feb 2011 25 Feb. - 3 Mar. 2011 Retweets @replies Retweets @repliesnzherald 5748 713 CEQgovtnz 3349 121NZStuff 1736 312 nzherald 2227 447AnthonyBaxter 1590 62 ChristchurchCC 1830 272TVNZnews 1503 208 NZcivildefence 561 72georgedarroch 1399 55 NZStuff 532 173TelecomNZ 1289 592 NewstalkZB 431 43abcnews 1131 127 operationSAFE 399 547StephenFry 1094 44 nz_quake 350 22vodafonenz 1071 559 TelecomNZ 314 163CEQgovtnz 689 137 VMGiving 277 9rgoodchild 577 125 NZTopModelColin 271 128ChristchurchCC 573 211 georgedarroch 270 6NewstalkZB 554 44 NZRedCross 268 207SocialMedia_NZ 491 26 eqnz_live 240 29HuffingtonPost 478 25 3NewsNZ 200 28
  34. 34. #eqnz: Contribution by Different User Groups in Each Event
  35. 35. #eqnz: Visibility of Leading Accounts in Each Event
  36. 36. Twitter and the Christchurch Earthquakeo Towards better strategies for social media in disasters: o February 2011 earthquake building on lessons learnt in September 2010 o #eqnz and key Twitter accounts already established o Several key accounts sharing the load and dividing responsibilities o More sophisticated use of Twitter by residents and authoritieso Clear shift in attention after the immediate rescue phase: o Marked differences in list of most @replied/retweeted accounts o Some tracking of current problems / issues / fears may be possible o Decline in overall tweet volume / diversification of #hashtags?
  37. 37. Social Media and Crisis Communicationo Twitter research: o Develop better tools and metrics for evaluating social media communication o In-depth analysis of communication patterns reveals how social media are used o Real-time analytics: highlight key current issues, identify weak signals of crisis o Monitor and improve effectiveness of social media communication strategies by emergency serviceso Social media uses: o Inform, share, amplify, support, reassure, organise o Need to track and work with user community: follow their conventions (e.g. #eqnz hashtag) o Two-way communication where feasible – more than broadcast messages o Provide community with tools to self-organise for resilience
  38. 38. Hashtag Metrics
  39. 39.