Examining the role of social media in California’s drought risk management in 2014

Zhenghong Tang, Ligang Zhang, Fuhai Xu, Hung Vo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Social media creates an interactive information communication platform for disaster preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery. Recent research has analyzed the participation of social media in natural disasters, such as the Haiti Earthquake in 2010, Queensland floods from 2010 to 2011, Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and Colorado flood in 2013, but little research has paid attention to drought risk management. In this study, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis method is used to evaluate the social media sites of governmental agencies that were directly involved in California’s Drought Task Force in the historic drought in 2014. The results show that state governmental agencies have used the popular social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter) as communication channels with professional stakeholders and the general public. The major functions of social media in the California drought risk management process included one-way information sharing, two-way information sharing, situational awareness, rumor control, reconnection, and decision making. However, social media was not active in donation solicitation and volunteer management. The two-way communication still stayed in relatively surficial levels with limited comments and inadequate conversations. A gap existed to reconnect public social media domain and personal social networks, even though drought risk was closely related to everyone’s daily life. During the California drought in 2014, Facebook worked actively in two-way information sharing for drought risk information and water conservation strategies; YouTube was a robust platform that attracted large number of views on drought videos; and Twitter played an effective role in reconnection of social networks to expedite drought risk information dissemination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-193
Number of pages23
JournalNatural Hazards
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 14 2015


  • California
  • Disaster risk management
  • Drought
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)

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