Featured case: Humanitarian Aid 2.0: Social Media Analytics
and Stakeholder Engagement at the International Committee
of the Red Cross

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The case

red crossWho – the protagonist

Charlotte, Director of Communications & Information Management for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).


The ICRC ensures humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and other situations of violence.



Social media analytics impact the way that the ICRC engages with its stakeholders in a humanitarian crisis.

The case focuses on one of the ICRC’s missions in Africa, where Twitter analytics helped Charlotte and her team detect an unexpected stakeholder constellation in the region.


It was 2014 when Charlotte and her team decided to outsource part of the social media analysis on potential stakeholders for the aforementioned mission.

Based on its analytics, the company labelled one stakeholder as irrelevant. However, Charlotte’s team’s own Twitter analytics proved this stakeholder to be one of the most influential non-state armed groups in the context.



This mission took place in an unnamed part of Africa.

Key quote

“Our approach is driven by what our staff in the field requires and not by what we think is good for them.” – Charlotte, Director of Communications & Information Management at the ICRC.

What next?

Charlotte realised she needed a clear and thorough strategy to convince her organisation that big data analytics was the way forward, and that it should be done in-house.

But what should Charlotte’s proposal look like when she presents it at the next ICRC Directorate?

Interested in finding out more?

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Humanitarian Aid 2.0: Social Media Analytics and Stakeholder Engagement at the International Committee of the Red Cross
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Teaching note
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The authors


Fabienne Bünzli and Martin Eppler

Fabienne and Martin discuss the importance of social media analytics and the inclusion of questions in their case.

Life or death

Fabienne said: “The case study shows students a side of social media analytics that most of them were not aware of, namely that it can literally save lives. It also gives students a much-needed organisational perspective on the buzzwords and fancy technology associated with social media and big data.

“Moreover, students frequently tell us that they liked our case because they were curious to learn more about the specific implications of social media for contexts beyond business. Often, in management and communication courses, social media analytics are discussed in conjunction with commercial purposes. Thus, the use of social media analytics in humanitarian contexts represents a kind of a ‘terra incognita’ that enables students to gather new insights and take on another perspective.”

Helping hand

helping hand

Martin commented: “The case contains quite some complexity so we included questions at the end to help students navigate the topics in the case. This way, they know what to focus on, and they can work with the contents right away. It does help them, in other words, to partition the case and see its different facets clearer.

“The questions allowed a more focused and better structured in-class discussion. By weighting the questions differently, the case also lends itself well to different class settings or topics, such as strategic management, communications management, stakeholder management, or marketing.”

Working relationships

Fabienne added: “Talking to the actual decision makers and experts was instrumental in researching and writing the case.

“We wanted to highlight the real-life benefits and constraints of social media analytics, and for that you really need to have a dialogue with the different players involved. We believe the management side of social media analytics did not come out clearly enough in previous publications about the topic.”


Showing sensitivity

Martin concluded: “Throughout our research, we were very much aware of the privilege to closely study the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“We were conscious of its special role as a neutral humanitarian organisation with a global reach, so we always paid attention to sensitive data. We also had joint workshops before our interview sessions and this certainly helped to establish trust and common ground.”

About the authors

Fabienne Bünzli is a Scientific Associate at the University of St Gallen.
e fabienne.buenzli@unisg.ch

Martin Eppler is Professor of Media and Communication Management at the University of St Gallen.
e martin.eppler@unisg.ch


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