Earthquake: Canadians Turn to Social Media Instead of Diving for Cover

Yesterday afternoon at 1:41pm EDT, a 5.0 magnitude earthquake shook Quebec and Ontario and it looks like people ran to Twitter instead of diving for cover. Once again, social media beat traditional media to the punch (as if this is news nowadays), although mainstream outlets were quick to report the news shortly thereafter.

We did a little research on social media activity regarding the earthquake using Radian6. Some interesting stats:

  • Prior to the earthquake, there were approximately 100-300 mentions of earthquakes on social networks per hour.
  • There were over 31,000 mentions of earthquakes between 1 and 2pm today. That number doubled to almost 65,000 mentions in the hour following the earthquake (between 2 and 3pm).
  • There have been roughly 170,000 mentions of the earthquake since the earthquake began.
  • The first tweet was posted just seconds after the earthquake began at 1:41:41 EST.
  • Users generally decided to tweet the news rather than update their Facebook statuses. While many Facebook updates are private, publicly available updates were outnumbered by tweets by about 8 to 1.

While a majority of the tweets and updates were tinged with surprise, it’s nice to know people hadn’t lost their sense of humour. A few of the funnier posts on Twitter included:

  • “The earthquake triggered a tsunami at the G20 fake lake” – @AndrewFstewart
  • “The earthquake in Toronto was just thousands of England fans jumping back on the bandwagon” – @mlse
  • “That wasn’t an earthquake. It was just Quebec trying to separate.” – @stevepayne
  • “Widespread disappointment across Toronto at news that it was not, in fact, the epicentre of the quake” – @ivortossell
  • “So #earthquakes actually improve the TTC. Go figure. RT @680News: TTC fully operational.” – @josephdee

Erin Bury has a great post on some other funny tweets over at BlogTO.

This is another example of the power of social media in providing up-to-the second news in a way that would have been unimaginable a few years ago.

Update: Interesting post from Joe Boughner on whether it really matters that social media beat the mainstream media to the punch. My take: I like Joe’s points, and Twitter certainly plays a different role to mainstream journalism – it’s not about substantial coverage in the same way. However, in a world where traffic (and ad dollars) flows to the first piece of substantial coverage on the event, being first does matter.

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.