Social media usage skyrockets during Hurricane Sandy

By RACHEL JANOSEC

In crisis, reports show that social media usage increases.  Public officials and celebrities embraced social media during Hurricane Sandy during the past week.  They turned to sites like Facebook, Instagram and, especially, Twitter to report major news and pictures regarding the storm.

With Hurricane Sandy, public officials and government agencies used social media to a greater extent than ever before reported. For example, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York borderline abused Twitter.  Gov. Cuomo tweeted 400 messages on Tuesday, 300 on Wednesday and more than 100 on Thursday.  His Twitter feed featured photos of the storm damage and many updates on power restoration.

The governor admitted that it is usually his aides tweeting for him and not actually himself.  But Mr. Cuomo’s deputy communications director, Joshua Vlasto, stated, “social media is a highly effective method of communicating information in a time of crisis.” Both the governor and his staff recognize this and that is the reason for the excessive tweeting during the past few days.  The governor’s followers increased from 20,000 to 50,000 since last Friday.

Although most people lost their cell service during the storm, those with a working signal relied on texting and social networking to a degree that was never reported before in previous disasters.

Governors, mayors and emergency workers from all of the effected areas fully turned to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube during Sandy, knowing that people unable to watch television could still receive texts and messages from social media sites.

“Twitter makes it possible for a public official to create a round-the-clock press conference, simultaneously informing their staff, the public and the press,” said Andrew Rasiej, founder of the Personal Democracy Forum.

Even before the storm hit, states were showing creative ways of warning people about it. North Carolina was posting videos on YouTube about preparations and Maryland made a Pineterest page with resources and photos of past floods to help people get ready.

Social media sites took off this past week more then ever and were used as a guide to get people through this terrific and devastating storm.  In the future, Twitter and Facebook will be where people turn to rather then turning on their television to find out the latest news.

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