Searching, Sharing, Acting: How Audiences Assess and Respond to Social Media Messages about Hazards

August 2014 (VOL. 32, NO. 2)

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This study uses a controlled experiment to examine the decisions social media users make in large- and small-scale emergencies. Drawing on a diverse sample from an urban research university, it finds that hazard message features such as proximity and authority affect social media users’ perceptions about the salience and sufficiency of the information they receive, as well as the computer-mediated communication choices they make after their exposure to such messages. Results suggest that layering messages across new and old media platforms can offer promising results for emergency communicators using social media tools as well as for traditional mass media positioning themselves in the new media environment.