It’s difficult to believe that one year ago, significant parts of Brisbane were inundated by floodwaters; thankfully, there has been no repeat of the flood crisis this year. One of the few good news stories to emerge from the disaster was the – overall, very successful – way in which social media such as Twitter and Facebook were used during the event, both by key emergency authorities and by everyday users, from directly affected local residents to onlookers further afield.
Particular kudos in this must go to the Queensland Police Service Media Unit, which – not quite from a standing start, but certainly without much time to prepare a comprehensive strategy for its social media crisis communication approaches – delivered timely, informative, and level-headed updates on the flood crisis as it unfolded. Its Facebook followers grew, literally overnight, by a factor of ten, and @QPSMedia also became the single most visible account participating in the #qldfloods Twitter hashtag.
We’ve presented some analyses of the use of Twitter during the crisis in various contexts during 2011 – including the Eidos Institute symposium at the Queensland State Library in April, and various conference presentations later in the year. In time for the first anniversary of the floods, we are now releasing a major report on #qldfloods and @QPSMedia through the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, where we are based.
Co-authored by Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess, Kate Crawford, and Frances Shaw, the report takes a comprehensive look at overall patterns of Twitter activity in #qldfloods, as well as analysing in much greater detail the contents both of the #qldfloods update stream itself and of the conversation specifically surrounding @QPSMedia. (We are especially indebted for this to our colleague Frances Shaw, who carried out the tedious task of coding those tweets.)
We’re hoping that this report will make a useful contribution to the further development of social media crisis communication strategies in emergency services and media organisations. It’s also a useful starting-point for our ARC Linkage project in partnership with the Eidos Institute and the Queensland Department of Community Safety (DCS), which will further investigate the use of social media in crisis communication and work with the DCS to develop its social media activities.
(Report cover image by Angus Veitch on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons BY-NC licence.)