Home > BLOG 4, Crisis Communication > Blog 4: How Can Twitter Helps During Crises?

Blog 4: How Can Twitter Helps During Crises?

The use of social media in today’s society is unbelievable.  Everyday more and more people join social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Some people join just to keep in touch with friends, but many people can use social media, Twitter in particular, to receive instantaneous updates for their everyday lives.  Twitter can be used to receive news updates, scores of sports games, celebrity gossip, and random quips from friends, but it should never be overlooked in it’s potential to help communicate during a crisis. Of course the real question is not the potential to help, but how can it actually be helpful? In order to understand that, one must understand the ease of access to Twitter.

According to the CTIA (the International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry) 31.3% of people in the United States have a smart phone.  That means that one in every three people own a smart phone. Of course this number is slightly skewed in that not everyone (e.g. babies, children, and most likely the elderly) own any cellular phone at all, much less a smartphone. That being said, it can be reasonably believed that the number of people who have a smart phone is almost equivalent to the number of people who have a feature cell phone. Why does this matter? Because Twitter can be accessed on smart phones. If about half of all people who have a cell phone have access to Twitter on said phone, then the possibility of reaching out to people via Twitter during a crisis becomes a big deal. Even if someone does not own any type of cell phone, the chance that someone who cares about them does and will get important updates, via Twitter, perhaps, about a current or potential crisis is quite high. Social media, and especially Twitter, can be used to get an enormous amount of the population potentially life saving information instantaneously. People no longer have to sit by the radio listening for updates. They no longer have to watch the news. All they have to do is have a computer or smart phone with access to a Twitter feed. Many top news stations, such as CNN, have Twitter feeds, and this type of communication can help by warning people before a crisis happens. Of course we are not the first people to think of this, as is apparent by the disaster in Japan earlier this year. FEMA is also on the social media bandwagon.

We’re trying to reconceptualize emergency response around resources that didn’t exist five years ago,” says Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), a leading proponent of social media. “Nobody invented Twitter to be an emergency messaging or disaster tool.

While using Twitter to aid in crises has not been perfected yet, it has certainly shown it’s potential during the disaster in Japan when two tweets mobilized troops. That example should be enough to show how effective Twitter can be when used for this purpose. As more an more crises happen in the coming years Twitter should be used in an increasingly effective manner. It is not hard to imagine a society where people are receiving life saving updates about possible natural disasters on their phones or computers. As our society continues to become more and more connected, hopefully this power can be used to help more and more people.

  1. October 31, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    I found your post to be very interesting and it is just the topic that I was looking for my social media class. It is definitely important to know that social media is everywhere now and that most people that use a computer today are using social media in some way or another. I like how you mentioned the fact that some people just use it to connect and reconnect with people. Being a college student I have noticed that mostly everyone around this age is using social media for this purpose. They like having Twitter and Facebook accounts to see what their friends are doing everyday and to basically keep track of their everyday lives. It is almost always forgotten that social media can be used for crisis’s as well as connecting. Not a lot of people look at it in that way but it really can be a useful tool to keep you updated with the most recent news. Instead of turning on the tv everyday and watching the news you can simply log online and just read what people are blogging about and it will take way less time. The statistics you added were great and I think it is important to know that social media will definitely be a big part of our world in the next few years. It continues to become more and more popular everyday and that is because people cannot live without it. Just like you say, mostly everyone has smartphones so they do not even need a computer to do this.

  2. November 3, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Hey, a comment from the wild??? Very nice. I’ll just agree with the commenter and say good post.

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