This is an excerpt from my new book, Home Run Internet Marketing…
Though social media can be a dangerous landscape if engaged in carelessly, it has already been of benefit to millions of people around the globe. Its ability to offer a new communication medium brings with it new found ways to reach out and help those in need. Here are three examples.
The Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan
When the earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastation hit Japan in 2011, thousands lost their lives or were made homeless. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter brought with them a variety of ways people could help those affected. During and just after the event, videos were posted on YouTube and other video sites showing the devastation and the people affected. People could see the event, and its aftermath within minutes. No longer did people have to wait for the evening news to catch up.
In addition, social media sites allowed people to set up donation centers as well as help raise money to help the affected population. Even the process of organizing groups of people to help was made more efficient through social media. The sites made a real impact in helping survivors get through the event. If we didn’t have social media, more people may have died or suffered needlessly.
The Eurostar Debacle
In December 2009, EuroStar, a company that operates trains through the tunnel connecting Britain and France faced an unprecedented crisis. During that month, Europe was hit with massive snowstorms. A week before Christmas, due to the snowy conditions, a EuroStar train broke down inside the channel tunnel. Over 2000 people were trapped in the trains for over 16 hours. With no water or electricity, and limited bathroom facilities, these people endured a very unpleasant situation. The passengers and those waiting for them at the stations began tweeting about the situation and trying to get answers. In dire need of updates on what was happening, they started a social media tidal wave of discontent and anger. Eurostar had no social media crisis plan in place and were totally caught off guard. In fact, the only twitter feed they had in place was solely for pushing out marketing messages.
When the stranded passengers finally got to safety, the social media onslaught against the Eurostar continued. People wanted answers. Finally, company executives had to acknowledge the social media backlash and respond to the issues via that medium. They were caught unaware of the power that social media could offer in communicating with customers and the public alike. People didn’t care that the one EuroStar Twitter feed was only for marketing. They wanted information about their loved ones. This event showed companies around the world that they need to adopt social media carefully and have an emergency plan at the ready should they experience a crisis.
The Occupy Movement
Starting in September 2011, the Occupy Movement was focused on bringing to light the issues of societal and economic inequality. As a protest tool, people began setting up tent cities in locations around the world, starting in New York City. One of the key communication tools used by the protesters was social media. It allowed an easy way to set up demonstrations, organize protests and distribute news in real-time. In a truly international way, social media let protesters communicate with like-minded people no matter their geographic location. Though the movement has died down and some ask what really has come from it, there’s no denying that it showed the organizing power of tools like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Societal movements in the future will surely build on the tactics and methods used by the Occupy participants.