Social Media and PR

Haley J. Higgs

The Haitian Earthquake Crisis and Social Media January 23, 2010

Filed under: TOW — hhiggs87 @ 2:24 am

Over the past week, the out pouring of support for those affected by the earthquake in Haiti has been tremendous. Social media has played a huge part in spreading news and gathering support. Verizon is using Facebook to encourage people to donate and news stations are using blogs to keep the public “in the know.” But the biggest use of social media has come from the Red Cross. The Red Cross has used social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to rally support for those in Haiti.

The Red Cross has posted updates via Twitter every hour since the crisis occurred. When the earthquake first happened, the Red Cross was one of the first organizations to “tweet” asking people to donate to relief efforts. Just one of their tweets has been re-tweeted hundreds, if not thousands of times. By posting one message asking for help and then that message being reposted and reposted, people who don’t follow the Red Cross and even some who don’t use Twitter have the seen the message.  The Red Cross is even trying to make it simple for people to donate. In one tweet they said, “Your $10 text donation can provide 2 water containers to store clean drinking water. Text “HAITI” to 90999.” By allowing people the option to donate money via text, the Red Cross is connecting to the mass audience on their terms. Isn’t that what social media is about? Bringing things to a more personal and relatable level.

It blows my mind that millions of dollars have been donated to Haiti relief work in less than a week thanks to Twitter. On a daily basis, my Twitter homepage has at least 10 tweets that people I follow have retweeted from the Red Cross. I don’t follow the Red Cross on Twitter but because so many people do and are reposting, I haven’t missed anything. We don’t live in a slow paced world. We want information and we want it now, especially in a crisis situation. And that is exactly what social media is giving us. Organizations have to step up and utilize these new technologies or they will be left behind. The Red Cross is a perfect example of the benefits of correctly utilizing social media. Others need to stand up and take notice.

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