Social media is replacing traditional media outlets in times of disaster.  Experts find that during times of crisis, as with the recent hurricane that struck the entire U.S.’ Eastern seaboard, many of those affected turn to Facebook pages and Twitter to both relay and receive information. In the past, people relied on the government to distribute news during a disaster.  Emergency management systems were the mainstay of all communications efforts. People turned to radio, television, and the web for information. Now, all of that has changed as anyone can actively participate in the dissemination of urgent information.

How Social Media Can Help in Times of Crisis

Now, when a natural disaster takes place, citizen users can create their own specific Facebook pages to share information about events as they see them.  Through social media, specific needs can be identified and met.  Essentially, anyone with access to the internet or a smartphone can be a reporter.  Yet, social media usage during a time of crisis isn’t only up for the general public.  Police forces have  also turned to Facebook and Twitter to relay important messages.  Also turning to social media are emergency services and media organizations.  Common usages include correcting misinformation and stopping the spread of rumors.

Experts indicate that the government, police and traditional media outlets will need to continue to work on how they interact with the public through social media crisis communication strategies.

Without a social media strategy, any local, state or federal government is missing out on a key opportunity to both collect and distribute information.  Since social media is a two way communication tool, it is important and easier than ever to respond to respond to events as they unfold.  In order to do so, it is important for these agencies to already have their own social media presence.  An established presence will help to streamline the process in the event of a disaster. Moreover, having an established presence in the social media sphere means that the agencies would have already been trained on best use practices.

[Image via theatlantic]