Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter July 15, 2015

Social Media and the Virality of Risk: The Risk Amplification through Media Spread (RAMS) Model

Santosh Vijaykumar, Yan Jin and Glen Nowak

Abstract

Social media have transformed traditional configurations of how risk signals related to an infectious disease outbreak (IDO) are transmitted from public health authorities to the general public. However, our understanding of how social media might influence risk perceptions during these situations, and the influence of such processes on ensuing societal responses remains limited. This paper draws on key ideas from the Social Amplification of Risk Framework (SARF), Socially Mediated Crisis Communication (SMCC) model and a case study of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) social media management of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic to propose a new conceptual model. The Risk Amplification through Media Spread (RAMS) model brings clarity to the new complexities in media management of IDOs by delineating the processes of message diffusion and risk amplification through communication channels that are often highly integrated due to social media. The model offers recommendations for communication priorities during different stages of an IDO. The paper concludes with a discussion of the RAMS model from theoretical and applied perspectives, and sets the direction for future conceptual refinement and empirical testing.


Corresponding author: Dr. Santosh Vijaykumar, Center of Social Media Innovations for Communities (COSMIC), Nanyang Technological University, 14 Nanyang Drive, HSS-06-15, Singapore 637332, Phone: (+65) 81838657, e-mail:

References

Alhabash, S. and A. R. McAlister (2014) “Redefining Virality in Less Broad Strokes: Predicting Viral Behavioral Intentions From Motivations and Uses of Facebook and Twitter,” New Media & Society, DOI: 10.1177/1461444814523726.10.1177/1461444814523726Search in Google Scholar

Alhabash, S., A. R. McAlister, A. Hagerstrom, E. T. Quilliam, N. J. Rifon and J. I. Richards (2013) “Between Likes and Shares: Effects of Emotional Appeal and Virality on the Persuasiveness of Anticyberbullying Messages on Facebook,” Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16(3):175–182.10.1089/cyber.2012.0265Search in Google Scholar

Bakir, V. (2005) “Greenpeace v. Shell: Media Exploitation and the Social Amplification of Risk Framework (SARF),” Journal of Risk Research, 8(7–8):679–691.Search in Google Scholar

Berger, J. and K. L. Milkman (2012) “What Makes Online Content Viral?” Journal of Marketing Research, 49(2):192–205.10.1509/jmr.10.0353Search in Google Scholar

Biswas, M. (2013) “Health Organizations’ Use of Social Media Tools During a Pandemic Situation: An H1N1 Flu Context,” Journal of New Communications Research, 1(1):46–81.Search in Google Scholar

Botan, C. H. and M. Taylor (2004) “Public Relations: State of the Field,” Journal of Communication, 54(4):645–661.10.1111/j.1460-2466.2004.tb02649.xSearch in Google Scholar

CDC (2009) “Swine Influenza A (H1N1) Infection in Two Children – Southern California, March–April 2009,” Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report, 58(15):400–402.Search in Google Scholar

CDC (2010) The 2009 H1N1 Pandemic: Summary Highlights, April 2009–April 2010. Updated June16, 2010, from http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/cdcresponse.htm.Search in Google Scholar

CDC (2013) “CDC’s Emergency Management Program Activities – Worldwide, 2003–2012,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 62(35):709–713.Search in Google Scholar

CDC (2014a) Social Media at CDC. Retrieved August 28, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/socialmedia/.Search in Google Scholar

CDC (2014b) Social Media at CDC. Retrieved August 28, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/socialmedia/.Search in Google Scholar

Chew, C. and G. Eysenbach (2010) “Pandemics in the Age of Twitter: Content Analysis of Tweets During the 2009 H1N1 Outbreak,” PloS One, 5(11):e14118.10.1371/journal.pone.0014118Search in Google Scholar

Cohen, H. (2011) Social Media Definitions. Retrieved August 28, 2014, from http://heidicohen.com/social-media-definition/.Search in Google Scholar

Department of Health (Australian Government) (2014) Social Media: How the Department is Using Social Media Channels. Retrieved 2014, August 28, from http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/social-media-channels.Search in Google Scholar

Fraustino, J. D., B. F. Liu and Y. Jin (2014) “Social Media use During Disasters.” Eastern Communication Association. Providence, RI, Applied Communication Interest Group.Search in Google Scholar

Freberg, K., M. J. Palenchar and S. R. Veil (2013) “Managing and Sharing H1N1 Crisis Information Using Social Media Bookmarking Services,” Public Relations Review, 39(3):178–184.10.1016/j.pubrev.2013.02.007Search in Google Scholar

Freifeld, C. C., R. Chunara, S. R. Mekaru, E. H. Chan, T. Kass-Hout, A. Ayala Iacucci and J. S. Brownstein (2010) “Participatory Epidemiology: Use of Mobile Phones for Community-Based Health Reporting,” PLoS Med, 7(12):e1000376.10.1371/journal.pmed.1000376Search in Google Scholar

Gesser-Edelsburg, A., E. Mordini, J. J. James, D. Greco and M. S. Green (2014) “Risk Communication Recommendations and Implementation During Emerging Infectious Diseases: A Case Study of the 2009 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic,” Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 8(2):158–169.10.1017/dmp.2014.27Search in Google Scholar

Goel, S., A. Anderson, J. Hofman and D. Watts (2013) “The Structural Virality of Online Diffusion,” Preprint, 22:26.Search in Google Scholar

Jin, Y., B. F. Liu and L. L. Austin (2014) “Examining the Role of Social Media in Effective Crisis Management: The Effects of Crisis Origin, Information Form, and Source on Publics’ Crisis Responses,” Communication Research, 41:74–94.10.1177/0093650211423918Search in Google Scholar

Kasperson, R. E. and J. X. Kasperson (1996) “The Social Amplification and Attenuation of Risk,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 545:95–105.10.1177/0002716296545001010Search in Google Scholar

Kasperson, R. E., O. Renn, P. Slovic, H. S. Brown, J. Emel, R. Goble, J. X. Kasperson and S. Ratick (1988) “The Social Amplification of Risk: A Conceptual Framework,” Risk Analysis, 8(2):177–187.10.1111/j.1539-6924.1988.tb01168.xSearch in Google Scholar

Kim, S. and B. F. Liu (2012) “Are All Crises Opportunities? A Comparison of How Corporate and Government Organizations Responded to the 2009 Flu Pandemic,” Journal of Public Relations Research, 24(1):69–85.10.1080/1062726X.2012.626136Search in Google Scholar

Lewis, R. E. and M. G. Tyshenko (2009) “The Impact of Social Amplification and Attenuation of Risk and the Public Reaction to Mad Cow Disease in Canada,” Risk Analysis, 29(5):714–728.10.1111/j.1539-6924.2008.01188.xSearch in Google Scholar

Liu, B. F., Y. Jin, L. L. Austin and M. Janoske (2012) “The Social-Mediated Crisis Communication Model: Guidelines for Effective Crisis Management in a Changing Media Landscape.” In: (S. C. Duhe, ed.) New Media and Public Relations. New York, NY: Peter Lang.Search in Google Scholar

Liu, B. F. and S. Kim (2011) “How Organizations Framed the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic Via Social and Traditional Media: Implications for US Health Communicators,” Public Relations Review, 37(3):233–244.10.1016/j.pubrev.2011.03.005Search in Google Scholar

Lwin, M. O., S. Vijaykumar, O. N. N. Fernando, S. A. Cheong, V. S. Rathnayake, G. Lim, Y.-L. Theng, S. Foo and S. Chaudhuri (2014) “A 21st Century Approach to Tackling Dengue: Crowdsourced Surveillance, Predictive Mapping & Tailored Communication,” Acta Tropica, 130:100–107.10.1016/j.actatropica.2013.09.021Search in Google Scholar

Merchant, R. M., S. Elmer and N. Lurie (2011) “Integrating Social Media into Emergency-Preparedness Efforts,” New England Journal of Medicine, 365(4):289–291.10.1056/NEJMp1103591Search in Google Scholar

Morens, D. M. and A. S. Fauci (2013) “Emerging Infectious Diseases: Threats to Human Health and Global Stability,” PLoS Pathog, 9(7):e1003467.10.1371/journal.ppat.1003467Search in Google Scholar

National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools (2011.) Social Media to Reach Your Audience and Partners. Hamilton, ON, McMaster University. Updated 20 May, 2011.Search in Google Scholar

Nerlich, B. and C. Halliday (2007) “Avian Flu: The Creation of Expectations in the Interplay Between Science and the Media,” Sociology of Health & Illness, 29(1):46–65.10.1111/j.1467-9566.2007.00517.xSearch in Google Scholar

Petts, J., T. Horlick-Jones and G. Murdock (2001) Social Amplification of Risk: the Media and the Public. Norwich: HSE Books.Search in Google Scholar

Pidgeon, N., R. E. Kasperson and P. Slovic (2003) “Introduction.” In: (N. Pidgeon, R. E. Kasperson and P. Slovic, eds.) The Social Amplification of Risk. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–10.10.1017/CBO9780511550461.001Search in Google Scholar

Pistol, A. and A. Streinu-Cercel (2013) “Risk Communication Strategies Used in the 2009 Pandemic Influenza A H1N1PDM,” Public Health Management, 2(4):163–166.Search in Google Scholar

Renn, O. (1991) “Risk Communication and the Social Amplification of Risk.” In: (R. E. Kasperson and M. P. Stallen, eds.)Communicating Risks to the Public: International Perspectives. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 287–324.10.1007/978-94-009-1952-5_14Search in Google Scholar

Renn, O. (1992) “Risk Communication: Towards a Rational Discourse with the Public,” Journal of Hazardous Materials, 29:465–519.10.1016/0304-3894(92)85047-5Search in Google Scholar

Reynolds, B. J. (2009) “Building Trust Through Social Media. CDC’s Experience During the H1N1 Influenza Response,” Marketing Health Services, 30(2):18–21.Search in Google Scholar

Signorini, A., A. M. Segre and P. M. Polgreen (2011) “The Use of Twitter to Track Levels of Disease Activity and Public Concern in the US During the Influenza A H1N1 Pandemic,” PloS One, 6(5):e19467.10.1371/journal.pone.0019467Search in Google Scholar

Smith, F. (2009) “Using Social Media to Meet CDC’s Mission: H1N1 Flu Response.” Retrieved August 28, 2014, from http://av.conferencearchives.com/pdfs/091105/604.2.pdf.Search in Google Scholar

Thackeray, R., B. L. Neiger, A. K. Smith and S. B. Van Wagenen (2012) “Adoption and use of Social Media Among public Health Departments,” BMC Public Health, 12(1):242.10.1186/1471-2458-12-242Search in Google Scholar

Vijaykumar, S., M. O. Lwin, Y.-L. Theng, S. S. Foo, S. A. Cheong and G. Lim (2013) A Social Media-based Participatory Epidemiology Approach for Vector-borne Disease Prevention (VBDP) in South Asia. eTELEMED 2013, The Fifth International Conference on eHealth, Telemedicine, and Social Medicine.Search in Google Scholar

Walton, L. R. and H. H. Seitz (2012) “Strategic use of YouTube During a National Public Health Crisis: The CDC’s Response to the 2009 H1N1 Flu Epidemic,” Case Studies in Strategic Communication, 1(3):25–37.Search in Google Scholar

WHO (2014) “Global Alert and Response (GAR).” Retrieved August 28, 2014, from http://www.who.int/csr/don/archive/year/2014/en/.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2015-7-15
Published in Print: 2015-9-1

©2015 by De Gruyter