Social Media Use for Disaster Recovery: Two Approaches

Using social media for disaster recovery has become commonplace during disaster relief efforts. Social media can be used as canvas (platform), a space for social gathering. However, employing social media tools for effective disaster recovery is still challenging. Two approaches may be considered when using social media tools:

  1. Team-oriented approach: Following the Joplin (MO) tornado hit on May 22, 2011, Five volunteers developed a virtual space for tornado victims, their families, volunteers, as well as local businesses. The information hub is called Joplin Tornado Info ( The Joplin Tornado Facebook page has more than 40,000 followers. The Facebook page provides most updated and real-time information on Tornado activity. It integrates various technologies such as google products (e.g. documents, places, and voices), Wikis, Flicker, etc. The site was nominated for a 2011 Mashable Award in the Social Good Cause Campaign Category.
  2. Emergent community approach: An emergent community approach is led by an individual who acts to help disaster victims and connect people typically using social media.  ABC chief meteorologist James Spann’s twitter account, who had approximately 22,000 followers, became a hub for volunteering opportunities matching. He also successfully communicated the needs of victims by creating Twitter hashtags such as #AlNeeds to spread the needs of victims.

How have you seen social media technologies used during disasters? Are there other modes of implementation?


2 thoughts on “Social Media Use for Disaster Recovery: Two Approaches

  1. Following somewhere between the two categories identified in this post, I think the Ushahidi project ( has played a very interesting role in certain disasters, such as in the wake of the Haitian earthquake. The power of social media in a post-disaster environment is in part the power of crowdsourcing, and how it can be harnessed.

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