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T.44 Social Media and Text Messaging

Social Media and Messaging apps are used as online communication platforms to reinforce hygiene messages and behaviours and provide critical information to the target audience.

The Social Media and Messaging apps that are universally used are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Tik Tok, WhatsApp, Signal and WeChat. The use of apps differs from country to country and it is important to identify the relevant platforms used in the area. Social media accounts are easy to create. Messages can be shared almost instantly. Messages can also be used as a reminder to encourage habit-formation and can be useful to share messages during Events T.11 and relevant world days like Global Handwashing Day. Information can be shared in various formats like podcasts, music, videos, animations, simple text and documents. It is important to add a personal or human touch when communicating as this prompts the target audience to perceive it as more trustworthy. Partnering with influencers and local leaders T.22 to produce content such as photos, videos and podcasts can also help create an instant connection with the audience. Social Media and Messaging apps are less time and resource consuming than other Mass Media C.5 such as Print Media T.33 or Radio and TV T.38. A simple smartphone can deliver messages instantly. A Social Media manager and communications staff may need to be hired depending on the scale of the Social Media outreach to create consistent and reliable content. There are several inexpensive apps available that design and schedule Social Media posts; they could be used instead of hiring additional staff.


Social Media and Messaging have proved useful in all phases of emergencies. During an acute response, they disseminate potentially life-saving information quickly (e.g. during disease outbreaks). During recovery, messages can reinforce behaviours and positive habits. Urban contexts often provide more connectivity, though Social Media platforms are becoming more accessible in rural areas through mobile internet and cell phone networks. Social Media and Messaging are extremely helpful and rapid sources of communication but abusive comments, hate messages, spam and rumour spreading C.6 are prevalent. Maintenance work is required to constantly respond to negative comments and eliminate spamming.


  • Involve the target audience in content creation and use private interaction features like messaging when necessary

  • Use appropriate social media metrics to measure progress

  • Use verified social media accounts


  • Do not use Social Media as a one-way communication channel. Listen and respond to messages and comments

  • Do not use jargon and technical terms

Practical Example

Zambian pop star Pompi created a music video with WaterAid on handwashing to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Zambia. The video was shared widely on Social Media channels and WhatsApp in Zambia. 

In the Syrian city of Aleppo where most of the water supply was broken, secure water points were created and locations shared and constantly updated via phones on Social Media. These posts reached many users who could also get questions answered.

Key Decision Critria

Response Phase
Acute Response
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Protracted Crisis
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HP Component
Preconditions and Enabling Environment
Community Engagement and Participation
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Assessment, Analysis and Planning
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Social and Behaviour Change
Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL)
Target Group
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Older People
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Persons with Disabilities
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Local Leaders
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Society as a whole
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Application Level
Individual / Household
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Community / Municipality
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Guide to using Social Media in emergencies

Lügo, T. (2017): How to Use Social Media to Better Engage People Affected by Crises. A Brief Guide for Those Using Social Media in Humanitarian Organizations, ICRC, IFRC, OCHA

Lalucci, A., Barrow, G. (2013): 101 Seminar Report: Social Media in Emergencies, CDAC Network, BBC Media Action

Social Media toolkits

Global Handwashing Partnership (2021): Global Handwashing Day 2021 Social Media Toolkit

AMREF (2020): #COVID-19 Africa Social Media Toolkit

Social Media outreach example

WaterAid Zambia (2020): Handwashing Campaign Twitter Post