Using Social Media During Crisis

Crisis management may be the most demanding task of leadership due to the number of fronts leaders must oversee: attempting to minimize damage, calm concerns and fears of followers, and manage perception in the media and public eye (Hackman & Johnson, 2013, p. 410).

The medium of social media makes the management of these different elements a little easier to handle, and allows governments and organizations to communicate quickly and effectively to reach mass numbers of followers (Kim & Liu, 2012). For instance, the City of Boston utilized social media effectively during the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, it was pivotal during the recent Yosemite National Park wildfires and the flooding that occurred in Colorado (Graham et al. 2015). Each of these instances social media allowed leaders to communicate safety protocols, warn of growing danger in particular areas, and guide the give direction that helped alleviate panic and uncertainty (Graham et al. 2015).

Due to the nature of social media, the open dialogic approach eliminates many barriers of communication to followers that have historically caused problems (Bertot & Jarger, 2010). One of these is the limitation of the message due to the limitation of the presence of leaders: leaders can only be one place at a time. Though television has helped broadcast a message during crisis to mass amounts of people, it doesn’t give the sense of presence to those hearing the message. Since social media has characteristics of openness, participation, conversation, community, and connectedness (Mayfield, 2006), it gives the sense leaders are talking directly to followers and considered a highly reliable source of information in crisis (Procopio & Procopio, 2007). This virtual presence of leaders may prove to be more successful in managing crisis, and diminish the need for leaders to be physically present for all aspects of communication.


Graham, M. W., Avery, E. J., & Park, S. (2015). The role of social media in local government crisis communications. Public Relations Review, 41(3), 386–394.

Jaeger. (2010). Designing, implementing, and evaluating user-centered and citizen-centered e-government. International Journal of Internet Research Ethics, 6, 1–17.

Kim, S., & Liu, B. F. (2012). Are All Crises Opportunities? A Comparison of How Corporate and Government Organizations Responded to the 2009 Flu Pandemic. Journal of Public Relations Research, 24(1), 69–85.

Mayfield, A. (2008). What is Social Media (1.4 ed.). iCrossing.

Procopio, C. H., & Procopio, S. T. (2007). Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? Internet Communication, Geographic Community, and Social Capital in Crisis. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 35(1), 67–87.


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