The M7.8 Kaikoura Earthquake: Lessons in Social Media and Communication

At 12.02am November 14, 2016 the ground began to shake on the South Island of New Zealand.

The earthquake ruptured along an approximately 180 kilometre length of the coast and displaced the ground horizontally and vertically by up to 12 metres. The rupture lasted nearly 2 minutes, and thousands of people were affected. The magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake involved 21 faults, a tricky tsunami, caused over 10,000 landslides and has had over 20,000 aftershocks to date, is now known to be one of the most complex earthquakes ever recorded with modern instruments.

GeoNet’s #emergencycute Tweets

GeoNet (New Zealand’s geological hazard monitoring agency) was the first agency to comment on the event via Twitter and then Facebook from 12.05 a.m.  Social media was very active, as we began to access the size and location of the earthquake, and it rapidly became clear that this event was significant in size and impact.

GeoNet kept the public up to date with information as it became available, with multiple tweets/posts and news stories with science information, and let them know we were right there with them during this scary time.

The successful Kaikoura social media response was built on years of dedicated work on social media platforms, beginning in 2010. Following the devastating earthquakes in Canterbury 2010/2011, GeoNet became a household name and we discovered the importance of social media to get information out to large numbers of people and responding agencies quickly.

Our lesson has been; communicate clearly, communicate often. We have honest conversations to foster trust with our audience, post empathetic messages and created ways to keep help lighten the mood during stressful times, our #emergencycute posts have been a favourite.  Our website news stories have also evolved and are now written in first person and have a more conversational tone.

With more than 107,000 people on Facebook and 73,000 people on Twitter, GeoNet has become one of the most followed public agencies in New Zealand and we hope as our audience grows, we grow with it and find new ways to best present our science and support the public.

This update was kindly provided by Sara Page of GeoNet, who presented at the 2017 Australian & New Zealand Disaster & Emergency Management Conference.

To check out what’s on at the 2018 Australian & New Zealand Disaster & Emergency Management Conference, click here.