40,000 quake-related tweets within 60 seconds

If you did not think the social networking world had taken much of the world by storm in recent years, this week’s events here in the U.S. are a perfect example.

Tuesday’s rare 5.8-magnitude earthquake in Virginia had much of the nation and other parts of the world for that matter buzzing on both Twitter and Facebook.

As Hurricane Irene barrels down on the Eastern seaboard this weekend, expect similar if not more social networking to occur.

Tweeting and Sharing

While the western half of the nation has never been a stranger to earthquakes, folks in Washington, D.C., New York City and other northeastern cities see them about as often as they do tornados.

So when the ground rumbled for a few seconds on Tuesday, residents in a number of eastern states and parts of eastern Canada were quite literally shocked. Many of them took to their cell phones and other means of electronic communications and began tweeting and sharing their experiences.

According to information from Twitter, the site had more than 40,000 quake-related tweets within 60 seconds of the earthquake, while Facebook said it had some 3 million U.S. users updating others about the event.

While many of the tweets and shares came from businesspeople, people at home, and on school campuses, a large number also originated within the government.

According to a FEMA spokesperson, the agency put Twitter to use to alert people impacted by the quake not to use cell phones unless absolutely necessary, thereby freeing up some of the lines for emergency calls.

Among the tweets was this one from the Department of Justice – “Quake: Tell friends/family you are OK via text, email and social media (@twitter & facebook.com). Avoid calls.”

Meantime, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tweeted – “I’ve spoken w/ our Police and Fire Commissioners & we’ve activated the Emergency Management Situation Room. Thankfully, there are no reports of significant damage or injuries in NYC at this time.”

With Hurricane Irene appearing headed for a direct strike on North Carolina and potentially all the way up the Eastern seaboard this weekend, government officials, airlines, hotels and others are already using social networking venues to alert individuals about the situation.


Stats Back up Social Networking Emergence

While many people still turn to television news to get their updates, there is little doubt that sites such as Twitter and Facebook are quickly if not already becoming the go-to places for immediate updates.

According to a pair of June Red Cross surveys from more than 2,000 people combined:

  • After television and local radio, the Internet ranks the third most popular way for people to obtain emergency information with 18 percent of both the general and the online population directly using Facebook;
  • Nearly one fourth (24 percent) of the general population and a third (31 percent) of the online population would turn to social media to alert loved ones they are safe;
  • Four of five (80 percent) of the general and 69 percent of the online populations surveyed think that national emergency response organizations should regularly monitor social media sites in order to respond quickly.


“Social media is becoming an integral part of disaster response,” Wendy Harman, director of social strategy for the American Red Cross, said in a statement. “During the record-breaking 2011 spring storm season, people across America alerted the Red Cross to their needs via Facebook.  We also used Twitter to connect to thousands of people seeking comfort, and safety information to help get them through the darkest hours of storms.”

With Hurricane Irene expected to live up to her billing this weekend, figure on Twitter and Facebook creating quite a storm as people continue to set sail on this new information age journey.

Photo credit: Cleveland.com


Dave Thomas is an expert writer on items like call center services and is based in San Diego, California. He writes extensively for an online resource that provides expert advice on call center company purchasing and outsourcing decisions for small business owners and entrepreneurs at Resource Nation.