Thursday, January 21, 2010

Social Media and Collaboration in Haiti Earthquake Relief Effort

This is a cross-post from my blog on the military Social Media tool milBook.

 On January 12, 2010 a powerful earthquake shook the country of Haiti. The earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 and was centered about 10 miles west from the Caribbean nation's capital of Port-au-Prince, the USGS said. It had a depth of 5 miles. The death and devastation of this impoverished land has been heartbreaking to watch.

I have heard many stories of how Social Media and online collaboration have been vital to the efforts to bring relief to the victims of this disaster. I wanted to connect my other posts on the different aspects of knowledge management and collaboration to a real world situation where they have been used successfully to save lives and relieve suffering.

As I researched this, I found this article on (the Social Media guide) that covers the 5 Social Media lessons from the Haiti Earthquake relief effort. They prominently mention the Red Cross fundraising effort using texting and Social Media to raise over $20 million for quake victims. Here are the five lessons (by Geoff Livingston):

1. Haiti Represents the Maturation of Mobile Giving
2. Online Participants Did More Than Just Give Money
3. Integration of Social with Traditional Media
4. The Story Was Emotional, but Not Fully Told
5. Immediacy and Impact Are Not the Same

There are all kinds of anecdotal evidence of Social Media use surrounding this event, but here are some numbers. This short overview by MarketingProfs shows the volume of Social Media use for the first few days after the earthquake. The Facebook group Earthquake Haiti has nearly 300,000 members, and the group Support the Victims of the Earthquake in Haiti has over 130,000 members (as of this writing).

There are many blog posts on this topic. Here is one that covers how CNN is relying on Social Media to supplement its traditional reporting and news gathering. Blogger Christian Borges wrote a post on what it was like using Social Media to get news of his loved ones in Haiti. This article in the Miami Herald also shows how Social Media has played an important role in connecting people after the earthquake.

Even Google Wave is being utilized to coordinate the relief effort. Despite the fact that it is still just a Pre-Beta system, it has been proven effective in enhancing communication. Michael Kutch and FedWave have been setting up multiple waves to support the heroes in Haiti. Michael has worked tirelessly to promote Wave as a mechanism to improve organizational effectiveness across the Federal government. Awesome job Michael!

While these stories are focused on online collaboration during these initial days of the relief effort, the challenge going forward will be using Social Media to remain connected with the people of Haiti during the long and difficult process of rebuilding their country.

I welcome your comments. Let us keep the people of Haiti in our thoughts and prayers.

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