Where Do You Turn In A Crisis?

This post was first published by Meredith L. Eaton on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.

Last week, on October 16, at approximately a quarter past 7:00 p.m. ET, people across New England felt the 4.0+ magnitude earthquake that emanated from 20 miles west of Portland, Maine. But, at first, not knowing it was an earthquake, people looked for an answer to what caused their building to tremble and books to fall from their shelves. So, where did they turn? For many, the answer was social media.

After feeling my office shake, I, personally, opened up my TweetDeck to see if there was any buzz about the event. And, indeed, I saw posts from many journalists and friends I follow, including ones from Computerworld reporter Sharon Gaudin, Forbes blogger Peter Cohan, InformationWeek editor-in-chief Laurianne McLaughlin, Boston Globe columnist Scott Kirsner and Interarbor Solutions analyst Dana Gardner, who accurately predicted its magnitude as a 4 or higher.

This led me to question where people generally turn in a crisis or significant event – is social media the first outlet? With its near-instant updates and worldwide reach, it does seem to be gaining popularity for news updates. And, several others seem to agree with this theory, tweeting:

Forrester Research Senior Analyst Rachel Dines and I had a similar conversation following the earthquake, noting that social media’s role is growing more and more prominent when it comes to crisis communications:

So, what do you think; is social media the first place you turn for breaking news? With more than 500 million registered Twitter accounts and upward of one billion active Facebook users, social media sites have a plethora of publically accessible content that can act as a ready-made ecosystem for breaking news and up-to-date information. More and more people are recognizing that and turning to sites like Twitter for information in a crisis. Do you?

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