The Importance of Twitter During Crises

By: Kelsey Clark

Unfortunately, the United States is becoming increasingly familiar with handling crises. Within the past year there have been multiple instances where Twitter took on a leading role in relaying breaking news to the public. Whether it be from an eye witness, a news reporter or a civilian, tweets regarding an occurring event provide detailed, insider information. Establishing a hash tag that will be posted in every tweet is important when covering an event because it allows for all of the information regarding the occurrence to be found in one place when searched. Below are two recent instances where Twitter was used to get information out to the public, while allowing for continual coverage of a serious event.


The recent shooting at Los Angeles International Airport showed how effective Twitter can be with regard to a tragic event. Several tweets from witnesses let the Twitter world know what happened right as it was happening, as well as if individuals were ok. As the main airport hub for thousands of celebrities, some were at the scene and took the time to tweet their whereabouts and personal status. One of these celebrities was Tory Belleci, host of “Mythbusters.” During the incident he tweeted, “Heard gun shots then everyone starting running for the door. Not sure if anyone was hurt. #LAX” and “Almost 4 hrs since the shooting. Still here. 2000+ people. They’re handing out water & snacks. #LAXShooting.” Belleci provided his followers with insider information, while using #LAXShooting, an established hash tag.


The devastating bombing that occurred at the Boston Marathon became popularized by the #BostonMarathon hash tag, allowing it to become an outlet for immediate updates. Information about runners and bystanders regarding the occurrence, as well as personal health updates were posted and seen on Twitter prior to being broadcasted on television news outlets. This particular hash tag started trending rather quickly, as it provided facts early and often. Other hash tags also provided marathon runners, supporters and civilians with knowledge of safety precautions in the area while the suspects were being searched.

In addition to trending hash tags used while the occurrence took place, the Boston Marathon bombing incident initiated several hash tags to emerge following the bombing. Some of the most popular hash tags that were established in the wake of the bombing were: #BostonStrong, #PrayForBoston and #BostonHelp. These three particular hash tags provided a sense of community within the city of Boston and some of them are still used today, months after the tragic incident.  

Twitter has turned into quite a remarkable social media outlet following the occurrence of recent, devastating events. It has allowed significant progress to be made regarding the ease of communication in relaying the status of safety during incidents in the United States. Additionally, the hash tags used on Twitter have been and still are used to connect people, event updates and news reports. They provide a constant stream of information that can be viewed by millions of people, which in recent cases has provided to be invaluable.

As always, we welcome all comments and are interested in hearing what you have to say. Have you or your organization used twitter during a difficult crisis?  

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