Crisis communication: Twitter and the Queensland floods

A year after the floods that devastated Queensland Australia, a report has been released by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries & Innovation (CCI).  The report discusses the impact that Twitter had in enabling efficient crisis communication during the floodins episode..

There are some interesting call outs about Twitter and the use of hashtags in the top line points from the report:

The hashtag, #qldfloods became the central coordinating mechanism for floods-related user activity on Twitter.

50-60% of #qldfloods messages were retweets

30-40% of messages contained links to further information

Twitter users amplified emergency information and thereby increased its reach.

Twitter became a source for mainstream media to report on the flooding.

Users uploaded and distributed flood photographs taken on their smartphones and digital cameras to sites such as Twitpic.

Retweeting of messages focussed especially on tweets with immediate relevance to the crisis at hand

Over 35,000 tweets containing the #qldfloods hashtag were sent during the period of 10-16 January

More than 15,500 Twitter users used the hashtag #qldfloods.

image

Source: CCI Australia flood report

The report also shows how much we share images – especially related to disasters, with those not in the immediate area of the flooding participating in sharing the images and broadcasting links which were picked up by media and shared on Facebook.

There are pointers for emergency services to consider coordinating a crisis response using social tools such as Twitter and Facebook:

An established presence on Twitter is important, and on-going monitoring of Twitter activities is valuable.

The community is willing to support and assist the work of emergency services

Emergency services should develop comprehensive, flexible strategies for using social media in times of Crisis

Emergency services staff should be trained

Emergency organisations should engage with and respond to messages received from the general public.

If Emergency services and official organisations use social media effectively, then it is easy to get the right information spreading rapidly. False information is quickly suppressed as the report shows,whilst information about help is propagated to rebuild communities after disaster strikes.

Used correctly, Twitter and other forms of social media have valuable parts to play in crisis situations.

Unfortunately, there are still many organisations that don’t yet have the correct procedures in place.  But with the actions of people in the community, help and information gets to those who need it most.

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.