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The Power of Social Media During Disaster

Yesterday’s devastatingly destructive tornadoes in the US’s Southern states got us thinking about the power of social media during times of disaster. Not only are platforms like Facebook and Twitter the fastest way to disseminate information to the greatest amount of people in the most efficient manner, but in the case of power outages that often result from severe storms, the various applications available on your mobile device may become one of your most valuable assets.

Michelle Lepianka Carter

Facebook users in the threatened areas posted status updates alerting their family members of their conditions and countless photos and videos of the tornadoes themselves, as well as the destruction they left behind. News and weather stations across the Twittersphere added specific hashtags to make it easy for followers to find information updates as fast as possible.

While social media may have saved many lives during recent disasters, just as impressive is the way it is used afterwards for various relief efforts and support for victims. After Japan’s rattling Earthquake on March 11, 2011, various celebrities tweeted to urge millions of followers to text RedCross to make a donation. Likewise, Lady Gaga created a Japanese Prayer Bracelet with which she raised close to $125,000 in just two days after tweeting for support to her 9 million followers.

Last night, a native of Auburn, AL initiated a support page on Facebook entitled Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa, where Auburn University’s biggest fans came together in support for the hometown of their biggest rivals. At the time of this post, that page has grown to over 35,000 fans and serves as a place for words of encouragement and a resource for those wishing to aid in relief for all those affected in the state of Alabama.

At the time of the 2009 flooding in Atlanta, GA, a hotel client had just enlisted Pertnear’s services to grow their Facebook page. Despite not being located in Atlanta, they wanted to show their support after hearing those lucky enough to have access to the Red Cross were standing in line for hours for fresh water. They knew Facebook would be the most effective way to gather support, but lacked anĀ  audience big enough to make a difference. A strategy was devised to grow their audience and give to the flood relief efforts simultaneously. For every fan they accumulated from Pertnear’s TravelTell Network, a water bottle was donated to Red Cross. After two days, they had grown their page from a few hundred to 3,000 fans and donated 10,000 water bottles to the Atlanta area.

Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to those affected by the recent tornadoes in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia. Charges will be applied to your wireless bill.