Asian Journal for Public Opinion Research (Aug 2014)

Involvement of Social Media in Disaster Management during the Wenchuan and Ya`an Earthquakes

  • Li, Leah Xiufang

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 1, no. 4
pp. 249 – 267


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Social media is being increasingly utilized in disaster relief work to identify safety issues, locate displaced-victims, and seek or provide support for those who need help. The presence of social media in disaster management has changed significantly in recent years, as it was not prevalent in the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, but had become a powerful force in the 2013 Ya'an earthquake. This paper discusses the development of social media in disaster management via making a comparison between how it functioned in the two earthquakes. It examines the following aspects: who are the stakeholders that use social media in the earthquake management; how do they adopt this means in response to the earthquakes; and what are the outcomes of adopting social media with regards to public engagement and collaboration in an emergency event. As Sina Weibo acts as the equivalent of China's Twitter, the methodology relies on an analysis of posts in Weibo. The outcomes primarily show that: (1) authorities, celebrities and the public actively adopted social media for the purpose of information dissemination and resource mobilization; and (2) social media users are both content consumers and content generators in the times of earthquakes. The study concludes that social media as a backchannel communication tool is helpful for government institutions, corporations, and nonprofit organizations to build relationships with their stakeholders in the disaster management cycle. The result will interest academics and emergency management practitioners who are concerned with improving disaster communication.