Social media has emerged as a popular and powerful tool used to empower individuals, communities, and response organizations in effective communications, information-sharing, and decision making before, during and after emergencies. Tools like Twitter, Ushahidi, SMS, Facebook, YouTube, and Google Maps are now used for a variety of reasons, including information dissemination, donation solicitation/ management, gathering of intelligence, situational awareness, locating/ reuniting individuals, crisis communications, rumor control, volunteer management, and more.
As the popularity and application of these technologies expand, so do the challenges associated with adoption and integration. While many organizations now recognize the implications of social media for strategic communications, their attempts to integrate and harness social media’s full potential for disaster response and crisis operations have not yet been fully realized.
The proliferation and widespread use of social media applications on mobile devices emphasizes the need to harness information made available through these channels. As the volume of social media data grows, so do the challenges associated with vetting, authentication, and application of the information.
Future applications of data gleaned from social media channels will be possible as technology advances. From the development of algorithms for monitoring and filtering, to methods for mapping, visualization, and integration within an operational environment, social media and social media data will help to increase the ability to learn about, respond to, and recovery from disasters more quickly and more efficiently.