Crisis Communications in the Age of Social Media: A Network Analysis of Zika-Related Tweets

Document Type


Publication Date



Zika, health emergency management, social network analysis, Twitter, crisis informatics

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



While emerging technologies such as social media have demonstrated value for crisis communications, significant question remains regarding how these tools can be most effectively leveraged to facilitate the flow of valid information under crisis conditions. In an effort to address these issues, this article examines the use of Twitter during the 2015–2016 Zika virus outbreak in the United States. Particular attention is paid to network structures within the Zika conversation and how different actors and communities contribute to the flow of information throughout the broader Twitter community. Public-facing organizations can benefit from a deeper understanding of the nature and structure of spontaneously occurring communities on social media as well as the types of content that they create and circulate. As such, these findings have significant implications for the development of effective social media strategies during natural disasters and public health emergencies. In particular, this analysis identifies several predominant themes communicated through Zika-related tweets as well as a number of distinct communities and influential actors. The findings suggest that respected political actors, public institutions, as well as those with valid scientific credentials can help to facilitate the flow of accurate and vital information across disparate communities.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Social Science Computer Review, v. 36, issue 5, p. 523-541