The reach of social media in disaster response scenarios.

Following the recent Boston bombings there has again been a lot of discussion on the role which social media plays as part of the dissemination of information and advice following disasters and public safety incident. The discussions this time has focused a lot on the quality of the disseminated data or the lack there of. In the data sharing frenzy following such events a lot of data which isn’t correct or relevant is sent out via the various social media channels.  I am not going to discuss how important it is that you make sure that the information which you share online as well as the advice shared is correct and how it’s even more important following such incidents. I will just say that the old saying of “rubbish in means rubbish out” applies here.


However I do want to discuss a practical example on how far and wide such a message can be disseminated. Shortly after the bombs had exploded during the Boston marathon we sent out the following message via Twitter:

“If you live or run a business in #Boston near bombsite (please) open your wifi for people to use. Communications are important!”

This message was retweeted 17 times but the dissemination didn’t stop there.  By doing a bit of online research we found out that this tweet had been picked up by a number of news channels who included the text and quite often a screengrab in their liveblogs. Following that it was picked up by other smaller news-sites and a number of private blogs. By Google-ing the actually body of the tweet we found out that it was quoted in 183 websites including  Wikileaks, CNN & Channel 4.

So there you go, real life proof that one single tweet can have an enormous reach & impact. Please consider that before you hit the Tweet or Submit button next time.


  • Twitter
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon
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