Social Media Use During a Crisis

via Facebook

Since its inception, social media wove itself into popular culture today, causing organizations to engage with key stakeholders through various social media platforms. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube collectively attract about 2.8 billion users each month (Facebook, 2014; Instagram, 2014; Twitter, 2014;YouTube, 2014). Since the number of internet and social media users exceeds two billion (Internet World Stats, 2014) internet users, organizations and communication professionals cannot ignore social media platforms as a way to communicate, even during a crisis.

Facebook launched Safety Check on October 15, 2014. Safety Check is a Facebook tool that allows users within an area of disaster to send an update about their safety status directly to Facebook. Users who enable the geotagging feature will receive a notification from Facebook if there is a disaster reported nearby. Facebook users have the option to confirm their status and send their updates directly to their network of friends. Facebook developed this tool after the earthquake in Japan in 2011 (Facebook, 2014).

Social media also enables those affected by a crisis to communicate with others in different parts of the world. For example, during the 2011 flood crisis in Thailand, members of different communities raised awareness about the needs of flood victims. Volunteers were able to band together in effort to provide support to those in need. As the Asia New Monitor (2011) reported, different publics used Twitter to locate where volunteers were needed for disaster relief activities. Social media campaigns can also be used to generate donations for disaster relief efforts. After the 2010 earthquake disaster in Haiti, Facebook and Twitter users posted status updates and retweets to support the American Red Cross campaign to text “Haiti” to 90999 to donate 10 dollars to the Haiti relief fund (Morgan, 2010).

via Twitter

via Twitter

A study conducted by Howell and Taylor (2011) found that 87 percent of participants said they would use social media during a crisis to confirm the safety of their friends and family members. You might be asking who has time to use social media during a crisis, take a look at one Facebook user’s response below.

Via Facebook

Via Facebook



Facebook. (2014). Facebook Newsroom. Retrieved from

Howell, G. J., & Taylor, M. (2011). When a crisis happens, who turns to facebook and why. Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, 12, 1-8.

Instagram. (2014). Instagram Stats. Retrieved from

Internet World Stats. (2014). Internet World Usage. Retrieved from

Morgan, J. (2010, January 15). Twitter and Facebook users respond to Haiti Crisis.                      BBC News. Retrieved from

Thailand: Social media put to good use during flood crisis [Electronic Version]. (2011, December 1). Asia News Monitor. Retrieved from ProQuest Database.

Twitter (2014). Twitter Usage. Retrieved from


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2 Responses to Social Media Use During a Crisis

  1. Errol says:


    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog post about using social media during times of crisis. I worked as a Marketing and Communication Specialist for a commuter rail agency and anytime their were delays or unfortunate accidents we used social media to do all of our agency messaging. It is remarkable how many people look at their Twitter or Facebook feed when something unordinary happens in their daily life.

    I can see social media messaging for crisis as a beneficial tool, but it can also be cumbersome especially when there are so many popular tools out there. We relied on Hootsuite to post to our agency’s Twitter and Facebook page, but we still had to send out emails to passengers and post service alerts on our website. It can definitely be a full time job!

    Also, I had never heard of Facebook Safetycheck till I read your post. I am definitely going to be looking into this feature as an option.

  2. Anastasia says:


    This is such an important topic that you chose to discuss. I personally had never heard of Safety Check but now may look into it as another tool to use in the event of an emergency. Last winter when the weather was out of control back East, my cousin was stuck due to the snow storms. Telephone communications were down, but we were able to get in contact with her via Facebook. There are a lot of naysayers against social media, and while yes people to abuse it, it can serve as a very valuable tool in the time of need.