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Social media can be a force for good in a crisis: lessons from Lagos

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In instances of disaster, it’s particularly essential that governments share correct, updated data with their residents. Social media can play an vital position in disseminating pressing data.

At its easiest, as an example, it permits individuals to mark themselves as “protected” after pure disasters reminiscent of earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, or throughout terrorist assaults and insurgencies.

Social media platforms may also be used to share critically vital details about catastrophe administration. And it’s a robust software for authorities to deal with misinformation and disinformation that will come up.

This type of communication is changing into ever extra vital. The Covid-19 pandemic has notably highlighted how susceptible densely populated cities and concrete areas are in responding to and navigating disasters and emergencies.

That is very true in densely populated cities on the African continent. Many of those cities lack giant infrastructure and dependable service provision. These points, alongside under-equipped native and nationwide authorities, imply cities battle to soak up and adapt to crises as they unfold in actual time.

We got down to assess the position that social media performed in driving public engagement with Covid well being measures in Lagos, Nigeria. We analysed public engagement on Twitter between January and August 2020 that associated to town’s lockdown protocols.

Considered one of our key findings was that the general public responded most to public well being data being shared by distinguished particular person social media influencers. These included sportspeople, comedians, musicians and business-people.

It was additionally clear that individuals responded most positively to using satire, humour and messaging that drew on influencers’ on a regular basis lived experiences of the lockdown.

Conventional survey strategies are unavoidably topic to time lags. That negates cities’ real-time or near-real time responses to disasters. As our analysis exhibits, social media permits authorities and researchers to gather an unlimited swathe of nuanced, contextual information in close to real-time. That can be utilized to make sure messaging campaigns reply shortly to public issues.

These findings supply helpful insights for future emergencies and disasters. In fact, social media doesn’t adequately at the moment characterize society as an entire. However it’s – and must be – considered a invaluable supplementary software for public well being and different public curiosity practitioners who search to make sure that public responses to disasters are profitable.

Key findings

Fashionable market analysis instruments imply researchers can now analyse vital metrics on matters which might be making an influence each globally and nearer to dwelling, nearly in actual time. These instruments create information visualisations and summarise key insights, so researchers can shortly entry a structured set of knowledge to extract wealthy, helpful data on any subject.

We used the commercially out there Brandwatch platform for this analysis. The date vary – January to August 2020 – allowed us to search out and evaluate information from Lagos’s pre-lockdown, lockdown, easing and post-lockdown phases.

For context, nationwide responses to the pandemic had been guided by a continent-wide technique. The overarching technique was applied in another way in varied nations and alongside totally different timelines based on their contextual specificities and wishes. The technique acknowledged that lockdowns include points, together with individuals not looking for healthcare for different circumstances. Different unintended dangerous results of lockdowns embrace growing meals insecurity, lowering bodily exercise and lack of livelihoods.

Learn extra:
What Nigerians informed us about their psychological well being underneath COVID-19 lockdown

Our information evaluation allowed us to evaluate how public perceptions and conversations round lockdown had been unfolding on social media because the pandemic – and commensurate authorities responses – unfolded in Lagos.

We initially hoped to conduct an identical evaluation about Yauonde in Cameroon. Nevertheless, we targeted on Lagos as a result of small quantity of tweets from Cameroon. That is doubtless as a result of Cameroon is a a lot smaller nation than Nigeria and has fewer web customers. To place it in context, our information question yielded 312,627 tweets from Nigeria however solely 7,696 tweets from Cameroon.

Making use of these classes

A variety of social media influencers had been actively disseminating public well being data on-line of their very own accord, with no clear hyperlink to Nigeria’s well being authorities past as a supply of some data.

One specific Twitter account, @Aproko_doctor (Dr Chinonso Egemba, a health care provider, actor and editor) had as many followers because the Nigeria Centre for Illness Management (NCDC) – simply over a million on the time. Our evaluation discovered that this account loved considerably extra engagement than the NCDC.

Learn extra:
Nigeria’s pandemic lockdown measures had been laborious on casual employees

This isn’t to recommend that giant well being organisations just like the NCDC, Lagos Ministry of Well being, UNICEF Nigeria, Nigerian Federal Ministry of Well being and the World Well being Group shouldn’t be utilizing social media. We discovered that these our bodies performed a major position in sharing well being messaging.

Nevertheless, organisations and governments can be taught from understanding how particular person influencers had been in a position to higher attain the general public. For instance, peculiar Lagosians responded higher to using satire, humour and messaging grounded in influencers’ each day lives than they did to dry information and figures.

Personalised messaging that leverages social media influencers can be utilized to amplify authorities and organisational messaging. This can be a technique to attain extra individuals. It may additionally mitigate in opposition to mis- and disinformation.

Our findings recommend that those that get pleasure from a higher diploma of engagement with their content material from followers can play the position of grassroots communicators to considerably affect how society responds in instances of disaster.

Social media occurs in real-time, or near it. This implies authorities and governments can shortly monitor how messaging campaigns are being absorbed and responded to by the general public.

As an example, they could discover that individuals understand contradictions and inequities in authorities’s catastrophe administration methods and measures. These issues could be quickly addressed. Or they could determine points which might be dominating public dialogue over the totally different levels of catastrophe administration however that aren’t flagged in present communication methods.

Flexibility and innovation

The twenty first century will proceed to convey disasters and emergencies. Excessive occasions associated to local weather change are anticipated to accentuate within the coming many years. Extra versatile, revolutionary approaches in the direction of messaging and knowledge dissemination are required – notably with respect to early warning and adaptation. These approaches can foster efficient, significant public responses and collective motion.

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