Exploring the emergence of influential users on social media during natural disasters Academic Article uri icon


  • 2019 Elsevier Ltd Public information and warning represent key components of society's disaster preparedness, as they complement planning and operational coordination. Social media has increasingly become a means by which users spread useful public safety and emergency information during these events. The emergence of influential users plays a critical role in the improvement of online social networks for widespread information diffusion. This study focuses on the emergence of influential individual users on Twitter and explores the reason why they achieved a significant number of followers during one of the most devastating disasters: Hurricane Harvey. The diverse patterns of increases in followers for the emerging influencers may be separated into several types. Among those types, Twitter users who posted objective disaster-related information in clear language and a consistent fashion tended to show an increase in followers and emerged as influential users. Additionally, professionals (from the media industry, public agencies and departments, and research organizations) made significant contributions to public information and warning during the hurricane. The findings highlight the common attributes of emerging influential social media users and the crucial role they play in the self-organized dissemination of disaster information.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Yang, Y., Zhang, C., Fan, C., Yao, W., Huang, R., & Mostafavi, A.

citation count

  • 26

complete list of authors

  • Yang, Yang||Zhang, Cheng||Fan, Chao||Yao, Wenlin||Huang, Ruihong||Mostafavi, Ali

publication date

  • August 2019