How emergency managers engage Twitter users during disasters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Purpose: Natural disasters are increasingly more frequent and intense, which makes it critical for emergency managers to engage social media users during crises. This study examined emergency official accounts' social media engagement at each disaster stage based on Fink's four-stage model of crisis and disaster: prodromal, acute, chronic and termination stages and linked topics and sentiments to engagement. Design/methodology/approach: Using text mining and sentiment analysis, 1,226 original tweets posted by 66 major emergency official Twitter accounts and more than 15,000 retweets elicited across the life cycle of Hurricane Irma were analyzed. Findings: Results identified the most engaging official accounts and tweets. Most tweets and the most engaging tweets were posted in the prodromal stage. Tweets related to certain topics were significantly more engaging than others. The most frequently tweeted topics by official accounts were less engaging than some seldom tweeted topics. Negative sentiment words increased the engagingness of the tweet. Sadness was the strongest predictor of tweet engagement. Tweets that contained fewer sadness words were more engaging. Fear was stronger in positively predicting tweet engagement than anger. Results also demonstrated that words for fear and anger were critical in engaging social media discussions in the prodromal stage. Words for sadness made the tweets less engaging in the chronic stage. Originality/value: This study provided detailed instructions on how to increase the engagingness of emergency management official accounts during disasters using computational methods. Findings have practical implications for both emergency managers and crisis researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)933-950
Number of pages18
JournalOnline Information Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 23 2020


  • Crisis
  • Disaster
  • Emergency
  • Social media
  • Twitter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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