Social Media’s Use in Emergencies: Research from Victoria, Australia

Post by: Kim Stephens

We often lament in the emergency management community that there isn’t enough quantitative data regarding the use of social media in disasters. A new report from Australia is helping to fill that void. During the 2011 Victorian Floods social media was difficult to ignore. The Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner and the Victorian State Emergency Service therefore ┬ácommissioned Alliance Strategic Research to conduct an independent research project to explore and document social media’s use during that event. The research objectives:

  • document social media comments during the Victorian floods
  • analyse and ascertain the nature of these comments
  • establish flows of information and recommend approaches for future events

I haven’t had a chance to read through the entire report yet, but they have a great video describing the major findings. Two things that stood out to me: one, people start talking about recovery issues during the height of the crisis; two, the tone of people’s responses are more positive than negative.

Here is their summary of major findings:

  • the key behaviour documented was spreading information through social media channels, with the information generally helpful and positive in its nature;
  • regional areas of Victoria are active in social media;
  • different social media channels were used for different types of communications at different times;
  • social media volume increases with the population of the affected area, severity and duration of events;
  • Twitter was the most active medium, and was used heavily by media outlets;
  • evidence of a one-to-one communications model, with community members engaging with each other individually.

This link will take you to their homepage where you can download the full report.

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