Social media poses “a challenge” in a crisis, but most critical content “goes nowhere” according to experts in crisis communications.

Gail Moaney, managing partner of communications and marketing agency Finn Partners, told the Resilience Through Tourism Summit in Jordan: “Social media is wonderful, but it is a challenge.

“Everybody thinks they are a journalist, but they are not. They are a citizen who might not even understand geography.”

Donald Steel, associate director for crisis communications at Kenyon International, stressed the need for rapid response, telling the summit: “It is more than likely your company will hear about a crisis through social media.

“At Kenyon, we say you have 15 minutes [to respond]. If you can’t come back in 30, get different management.”

Steel cited an Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco airport in 2013 in which three people died. The crash occurred at 11:27, the first eyewitness tweet was sent at 11:28, and Asiana’s first reaction was at 12:39.

He said: “It was a minute [before the first tweet]. Asiana waited an hour. What that communicates is that a company is hiding something.

“The airline needed to say in 15 minutes ‘We are getting reports of an incident and we will communicate more as soon as we have more. But our first thoughts are for our passengers and people.’”

However, Steel disagreed that destinations should look to user-generated content to reassure travellers.

He said: “I’m wary of any citizen giving security advice.”

Damian Cook, USAID consultant to the Jordan Tourism Board, agreed. He said: “Safety is not a marketing message.

“If your message is that you are a safe country, it says you probably are not and if something happens you are a liar.”

Steel dismissed the impact of much social media content, saying: “It is often said that everything is visible now, but the vast majority of stuff filmed on airlines and in hotels never goes anywhere.”

He warned: “You can’t choose what goes viral. You need to react. You can’t wake up in the morning and think ‘Can we make our image great?’”