Post by: Kim Stephens
A new report was released this week which examines the use of Twitter during the January 2011 flooding event in Queensland, Australia. The report was led by Dr. Alex Bruns and Dr. Jean Burgess of the Media Ecologies Project, ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) with Kate Crawford and Frances Shaw of University of New South Wales (see citation below). They examine the role of Twitter during that event by applying a rigorous research methodology, which is detailed in the report.
The report has a list of 21 key findings in the executive summary. To me, the most interesting aspect of what they discovered was the weight the most visible emergency services account, @QPSMedia, carried in the twitter-sphere. It demonstrates how valuable this communication became during the flooding as people gravitated to official information. What they confirm is the notion that if your agency participates on social platforms with consistent, clear, timely messages, you can become the voice people trust.
Here’s the list of their 11 finding regarding @QPSMedia:
- As the most visible account on #qldfloods, the Queensland Police Service Media Unit account (@QPSMedia) played a leading role in disseminating timely and relevant information to the public, and in coordinating and guiding the wider discussion.
- The Queensland Police Service was able to ‘cut through’ effectively: to reach its immediate audience as well as be passed along and thus amplified many times over, with the help of other Twitter users acting as further information disseminators, especially at the height of the crisis.
- Tweets from and to the @QPSMedia account were overwhelmingly focussed on providing situational information and advice. Engagement between @QPSMedia and its followers remained topical and to the point, significantly involving directly affected local residents.
- By contrast, the overall #qldfloods discussion contained substantially more tweets discussing the wider implications of the disaster and offering personal reactions, often sent from elsewhere in Australia and the world.
- @QPSMedia’s ‘#Mythbuster’ tweets – directly tackling the rumours and misinformation about the floods which circulated on Twitter and elsewhere – were especially successful, and very widely retweeted.
- The central role of @QPSMedia as an information source was widely acknowledged and applauded by Twitter users even while the disaster event itself still unfolded. This also places @QPSMedia well as an important participant in the Twitter-based coverage and management of future crises.
- Additionally, @QPSMedia also played a crucial role in enabling affected locals and more distant onlookers to begin the difficult process of making sense and coming to terms with these events, even while they were still unfolding.
- The tenor of tweets during the latter days of the immediate crisis shifted more strongly towards organising volunteering and fundraising efforts, but more strongly so in the overall #qldfloods discussion than in the @QPSMedia conversation. @QPSMedia provided information on volunteering opportunities, but did not significantly promote fundraising schemes.
- Retweeting of messages focussed especially on tweets with immediate relevance to the crisis at hand: tweets containing situational information and advice, and news media and multimedia links were retweeted disproportionately often. In general #qldfloods discussion, though not in the @QPSMedia conversation, this is true also for help and fundraising tweets. Less topical tweets were far less likely to be retweeted.
- @QPSMedia’s now established position as a leading account for crisis communication in Queensland places it well to explore more systematic approaches for crowdsourcing situationally valuable information directly from the Twitter community, in addition to continuing its role as a key information disseminator.
- Similarly, @QPSMedia is also in a position to build further dedicated links to the Twitter accounts of key media organisations and civic authorities, to develop a more comprehensive social media crisis communication infrastructure in Queensland.
Citation: Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess, Kate Crawford, and Frances Shaw. #qldfloods and @QPSMedia: Crisis Communication on Twitter in the 2011 South East Queensland Floods. Brisbane: ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, 2012.
- How Twitter played a vital role in the Queensland floods (theconversation.edu.au)
- December List: QPS Media, An example to the world (idisaster.wordpress.com)