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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 EMAIL logo , Yan Jin and Glen Nowak


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:


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

©2015 by De Gruyter

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