Speak with One Voice? Examining Content Coordination and Social Media Engagement During Disasters

Published: 26 January 2024

Changseung (Chang) Yoo

Authors:: Changseung (Chang) Yoo, Eunae Yoo, Lu (Lucy) Yan and Alfonso Pedraza-Martinezc

Publication: Information Systems Research
Articles in Advance – published online: August 31, 2023

Disaster relief organizations (DROs) utilize social media to provide information rapidly and broadly. Many DROs post content via multiple social media accounts within a single platform, on which each account represents a distinct entity (e.g., national headquarters, local branch). According to crisis communication theory, an organization’s communication channels can coordinate by “speaking with one voice.” In a disaster context, this can be facilitated by accounts within the same DRO producing convergent content through the match of their content creation decisions (e.g., targeting the same audience). Using Twitter data collected in partnership with the Canadian Red Cross, we show that content creation decisions by accounts within the same DRO are intertwined, unveiling at least an implicit level of coordination. Our results also indicate that engagement improves by 4.3% from a match only when uncertainty and urgency are at their highest (i.e., the response phase). Strikingly, a divergence of content creation decisions, or mismatch, yields 29.6% more engagement when uncertainty subsides (i.e., the recovery phase). We, thus, reveal that the recommended coordination strategy from crisis communication theory does not uniformly hold across the disaster management cycle. Moreover, we demonstrate that the effect magnitudes of a match versus a mismatch on engagement vary between accounts representing national and local level entities. Our findings extend crisis communication theory and pro-vide actionable guidelines for DROs’ internal coordination of social media content generation, which, ultimately, help DROs meet the needs of those affected by disasters.

The paper is gaining increasing attention from practitioners and humanitarian organizations. Professor Yoo published articles for The Conversation Canada and PreventionWeb (a knowledge sharing platform for disaster risk reduction under UNDRR), based on the findings from the same project. The ideas were also featured by co-author Professor Pedraza-Martinez in AVERT (a disaster management platform for experts to discuss best practices for disaster mitigation, preparation, response and recovery).

Back to top