Social Media in a Crisis: How to Help the Search for Hannah Graham

The city of Charlottesville, the surrounding counties, and the University of Virginia community have been dealing with a crisis for the past week. On September 13, Hannah Graham, an 18-year-old second year student at UVa went missing.

Social media really lights up in a crisis, and can be useful for those trying to share a message, such as the tweet below from Charlottesville city government, encouraging witnesses to come forward.


People who may not normally pay attention to Twitter or Facebook are tuning into these platforms to try to get the most up-to-the-minute information. These platforms can be helpful for that, and it’s good to see the news organizations live streaming press conferences and sharing news updates as they are available. A couple of ways to stay on top of these are to follow the hashtag #hannahgraham on Twitter and to like the pages of local news organizations reporting on the unfolding story. is one, and is another.

In all crisis communications, one of the main rules is to refrain from speculation. Speculation can hurt a criminal case, it can distract from the mission at hand, and does not assist law enforcement in doing their jobs.

Here are five things you can do to help in the search for Hannah Graham:

  1. Share updates on Facebook from official sources to gather volunteers to search for Hannah, that share the WANTED poster of the person of interest in the case, and the tip line information to help make it accessible to anyone who might have a lead.
  2. Retweet sources announcing press conferences or other news the Charlottesville Police Department wants shared.
  3. Use the hashtag #hannahgraham to become part of the search stream on Twitter.
  4. Steer clear of fueling rumors or speculation about the case by staying out of online conversations about it.
  5. If you have something relevant to share, contact the police department, not the media.

Let’s all try to stay focused on helping the law enforcement professionals in this difficult case.



  • Karla says:

    Well said. The speculation is just muddying the waters and I am sure hurting the Graham family. Send prayers and support. And call if you have info.

  • Snow says:

    No one is “hurting” the Graham family. No one that spends literally hours reading & on the phone want anything but to figure out what is happening to all of those girls in Virginia! The police have the same information we can find online…hopefully more…and THEY cannot stop 2-3 Virginia girls PER WEEK going missing! The fact that you ask people to stay out of it and let the media tells us what is going on is laughable. I see no reason to let a bunch of low levels reporter tell me what I am supposed to think…hell they could not even get the right location during the press conference today with some saying Jesse Matthew had been picked up in Louisiana!!! We WILL sleuth and when information comes together we will go to damn well whomever we wish!