The Effect of Social Media on the Disaster Relief Effort Following the March 11 Earthquake in Japan

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Following natural disasters, increased communication is common, as people seek to contact family and friends in the disasters zone, and seek information regarding food, shelter and transportation. The Japanese earthquake, however, was the first major disaster of a developed nation in the age of social media. Beat Communication Co., Ltd., the largest provider of social networking packages in Japan, conducted a research on the use of social media before and after the March 11th Earthquake. Due to the earthquake the use of Social Media spiked as well as changed as people began using it for disaster relief purposes. Social Media proved to be an indispensable tool in the disaster relief effort. Their report attempts to describe an ideal form of social media (which combines public mini-blog service with a private corporate social networking system) that would best be able to deal with disaster situations in the future.

Enterprise 2.0 & miniblogs such as twitter should be increased in the future
use to act as a security backup plan against the future disasters.

Beat Communication Co., Ltd., the largest provider of social networking packages in Japan, conducted a research on the use of social media before and after the March 11th Earthquake in Japan. This press release is part one of the two part report on this research.

Following natural disasters, increased communication is common, as people seek to contact family and friends in the disasters zone. The Japanese earthquake however was the first major disaster of a developed nation in the age of social media. Our research shows that social media played a critical role in the disaster relief effort following the earthquake in Japan.

The research found that though the use of mobile phones and email did predictably increase in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the use of social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and mixi (a Japanese social networking site) also increased, and in fact surpassed the use of more conventional methods of communication such as fixed phones (see Q1). Apart from the use of major public social networking services, many companies actively used their own secured corporate social networking services after the earthquake in order to confirm the safety of employees. In total, there was an overall 66-70% increase in the use of social media aftermath of the earthquake.

More specifically, after the earthquake 70% of respondents used Twitter, 38% used Facebook, 22% used U-Stream, 16% used Youtube, 16% used intra-corporate social networking sites (enterprise 2.0) or Intranet and 12% used mixi to confirm the safety of employees, friends and family, to learn more about the disaster situation (such as the damage done to modes of transportation and electrical grids) and to listen to public service announcements and press reports in lieu of television (see Q3).

The importance of social media in disaster relief is evident. 81.3% of employees responded that the use of intra-corporate social network (enterprise 2.0) & miniblogs such as twitter should be increased in the future use to act as a security backup & alert system for corporations against the future disasters.

As seen from the result, Twitter was the most widely used communication tool following the earthquake (70% of respondents). A combination of Twitter as a quick public reporting tool and secured corporate social networking site as a private communication tool would be ideal in dealing with disaster situations in the future.

The graphs reveal how the use of Social Media changed due to the Japanese Earthquake. The percentage of respondents who use Twitter “in order to obtain information faster” increased from 56% to 71%. The percentage of respondents who use Twitter “to make up for lack of information from domestic media” increased from 30% to 54%. Following the earthquake, absolutely new ways of using Twitter emerged: The percentage of respondents who use Twitter “to obtain accurate information from foreign media in lieu of domestic media” increased to 30%.The percentage of respondents who use of Twitter “to obtain expert opinion” increased to 30%.
The percentage of respondents who use Twitter “to obtain disaster information on tsunamis and earthquakes” increased to 30%. The percentage of respondents who use Twitter “to isseminate information” increased to 22%. All this reveals the uttermost importance of Twitter in disaster relief.

The Top Three reasons for using Social Media (Facebook, mixi, etc) before the earthquake was 1)”To communicate with family and friends” (57% of respondents replied such), 2)”To get information faster” (32%), and 3) “to disseminate information to the people” (25%). After the earthquake however “To get information faster” moved up 32% to 49% of respondents, “to compensate for the lack of information in television and newspapers” increased from 20% to 33% of respondents, “to disseminate information” increased from 25% to 29% of respondents, “to get information from foreign media due to the lack of domestic information” increased to 22%, and “To ensure the safety of family and friends” increased to 21%.

In conclusion to part 1 of the report, we would like to stress the importance of social media in disaster relief. Mini blogs like Twitter and private communication tools like intra-corporate social networking services (enterprise 2.0) such as Beat Office provided access to quick communication in the aftermath of the earthquake when landlines broke and cell phones went out of service. Communication is especially vital in disaster relief situations, and social media provided a new kind of relief that ultimately saved lives. There is no doubt that the earthquake changed social media in Japan forever.

When receiving responses from our surveys, some companies provided more detailed information than others. We will disclose these additional information in the next part of the report tomorrow.

At the end of this first announcement, we would like to extend our sympathies to all the families affected by the Japanese earthquake on March 11. We wish for their speedy recovery and the reconstruction of the devastated area as soon as possible.

---------- Survey Summary ---------------------
Research: Surveys were sent to 300 of the largest companies, 100 of which replied.
Research Objectives: to find the utilization of social media during the earthquake
Search Authority: Beat Communication Co, Ltd.
Methodology: Voluntary Internet questionnaire
Study period: April 21 2011, April 14, 2011

Beat Communication
Company Name: Beat Communication Co., Ltd.
Representative: Ryo Murai
Established: January 06, 2004
Start-up Capital: 35,000,000 yen
Location: 5-8-1 Scene Akira 3F Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
URL: http://www.beat.co.jp/en

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Yusuke Koishi
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