Online Convergence Behavior, Social Media Communications and Crisis Response: An Empirical Study of the 2015 Nepal Earthquake Police Twitter Project

Subba, Rajib
Bui, Tung
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Emergency response organizations such as the police are using social media as an additional channel to communicate with the general public in times of crisis. However, the utilization of social media with a free-style communication protocol by emergency response authorities for crisis response is still insufficiently understood. Who are the people they communicate with? What types of crisis-related information are shared with them? How do people react to these messages? How does the general public react to a social media run by a police organization? This paper uses the typology of convergence behaviors in emergency response as an attempt to categorize the public interaction with social media platforms. Furthermore, it uses the Situation Crisis Communication theory (SCCT) to analyze the crisis communication practices by a law enforcement agency. A content analysis of Nepal Police Tweets from the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquake was conducted. It sought to understand (i) whether people who Tweet exhibit the same convergence behaviors as reported in the literature, (ii) how online participants communicate among and between the different crisis convergence behaviors, and (iii) what would be the best communication practices to assist crisis response efforts. Data show that convergence behaviors differed from intensity of appearances and communications and Tweets helped reconcile the differences in perceived emergency response needs between netizens and the authorities.
Crisis Management, Crisis Response, Convergence Behaviors, Social Media, Police Twitter
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