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Hurricane highlights power of social media

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Do you ever get tired of watching news correspondents standing in water or literally be blown in the wind? I do. Somehow, I don’t need someone standing in the rain to tell me that it’s wet outside. Nor do I care if the water they are standing in is an extra two feet deep. Maybe they’re just standing in a hole. What I do want to know about are the weather conditions before they occur and most notably, when they occur.

This on-the-spot reporting has rapidly become the province of social media, particularly Twitter. According to Twitter, more than 20 million tweets between Oct. 27 and Nov. 2 relating to sandy, hurricane, #sandy, #hurricane were posted on its platform.

On a live and very personal basis, Twitter allowed its users to get a blow-by-blow description of Sandy’s progress and impact. With images and brief descriptions, Twitter users were able to describe the conditions they had to endure in a far more informative and personal manner than could any reporter, no matter how deep or windy the conditions they were currently enduring. Even without electricity, people were using social media to discuss the storm and their immediate condition.

Similar peaks of use in Facebook also occurred at the height of Sandy’s power. One fan page, Hurricane Sandy Acts of Kindness, that was set up in the aftermath of the hurricane has grown quickly and includes many stories of compassion and people extending a helping hand to those in more need.  Some of these stories are truly touching.

As much as it tries, however, social media cannot fully compensate for the importance of human interaction. Since my daughter is special needs and looks forward for several months to Halloween and with my area without power, we set out to find a location with both power and trick-or-treaters. We found a very wealthy area in Connecticut and spent two hours going from house to house with a horde of children.

What I found particularly noteworthy was that while these very wealthy people were only allowing the trick-or-treaters one piece of candy, the one person who was very generous and told my daughter she could take several pieces of candy was the person who could least afford it, living in a small, second-floor apartment with a linoleum floor. Although you could make the case that everyone who was giving out candy was being generous, the image of this person and her generosity will be forever seared in my memory; the differentiation was that noteworthy.

Maybe this is one of the true roles of social media – as the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter how much money or power you have in the building of an Internet presence. People can’t see your money or anything else about you, only what information and insights you decide to post. What made the tweets and posts concerning Hurricane Sandy so poignant were that they were real people talking about real situations they encountered. In several ways, they were both generous and giving, demonstrating the same traits as that woman on Halloween.

Social media allows us to communicate with potentially millions of people on a daily basis. It provides a great platform to grow a business, improve a brand or to even simply meet new people. Most importantly, however, it levels the playing field and allows both individuals and companies to stand out and shine.

Bruce Newman is the president of wwWebevents.com, a division of The Productivity Institute L.L.C. in Carmel.  He is a social media guru and a specialist on webinar creation and promotion. Newman is currently completing a comprehensive webinar training course, The Complete Webinar Training Course – Everything you need to know to create and promote highly successful webinars, which will soon be available. He can be reached at bnewman@prodinst.com.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Your discovery of generosity by those that can’t afford it is a classic axiom that those who best understand vulnerability are most passionate about helping others. We have found this also to be particularly true in The Foodbank for Westchester.

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