Tweet #Sandy - that's all it takes to get you message to a group of Red Cross volunteers because the power of social media has extended to emergency services.
The Red Cross now uses social media to detect who needs help where. That's pretty incredible! Staffers and volunteers collected millions of conversations after Sandy, thousands of which have been tagged and sent out to volunteers. It isn't the first time social media has been used for emergency services, it actually dates back to 2004 tsunami, but its use is becoming more and more helpful. According to Fast Company's recent blog post, This is how it works: If someone posts that they are trying to find shelter, reunite with their family, or a similar need, the post is routed automatically to on-the-ground disaster relief. While Harman says that the response may not be immediate--you can’t tweet “please bring me a sandwich, Red Cross” and have a vehicle come to you--the posts allow the engagement team* to alert personnel to real needs. They also can and do tweet back to people who need to be reassured or calmed. According to Twitter, People sent more than 20 million Tweets about the storm between Oct 27th and Nov 1st. Terms tracked: "sandy", "hurricane",#sandy, #hurricane. And according to the Red Cross’s research, social and mobile are tied for the fourth-most popular ways of accessing emergency information after TV, radio, and online.
How extensive will the power of social media reach? In the realm of emergency contact services Social media may be the morse code of the 21st Century. This is certainly more evidence that social media is powerfully effective tool. After all, why would you sit and wait to get found if you can post and get noticed faster?
*If you're socially savvy you can apply to be a digital volunteer.