Managing Major Incidents: The Role of Social Media

Operators need to understand the significance of social media and how to leverage it in response to major incidents.

The use of social media has expanded dramatically over the last five years. Twitter in particular, has transformed how society reacts to major incidents. It has changed how events are reported on by those at the scene and the people affected, and how those following an incident interpret and understand the issues. This rapid change in information sharing means that organisations face new opportunities and challenges in terms of responding both to an incident and the social media reaction to it.

Major incidents are followed by an explosion of activity on Twitter, which can generate more tweets than can be read and responded to manually and can overwhelm social media monitoring solutions. The result is that useful pieces of information are hidden within cast quantities of irrelevant or misleading information. Research commissioned by the rail industry and conducted by the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos (CASM) explored the feasibility of deploying new technologies, such as ‘Natural Language Processing’, to find information that can be used to help manage and make use of the social media messages generated in response to a major rail incident.

The research, which included a series of case studies, highlights the need for TOCs to understand: the significance of their social media response; the importance of a rapid and constant response with a running narrative of information; and the need for reactive communications that are responsive to people’s questions, comments and challenges (including the ability to listen to criticisms and offer responses or clarifications).

Topics covered

  • Social media
  • Information sharing
  • Major incidents
  • Neural Language Processing
  • Crisis informatics
  • Communications strategy


Management and use of social media in the aftermath of a major rail incident (COF-G12-01)
Use of social media during emergencies (S117)
Guidance Note – Major Incidents – Preparation of Aide-Mémoires for Senior Managers
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