As relief efforts are underway in Japan, social media is stepping up its role to provide ways for the international community to provide support. In this time of crisis, social media has truly proven its influence in connecting the world, creating important dialogue, and generating quick ways to donate.
There has always been a debate on how influential social media is in terms of generating conversation and sharing information. Since the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, social media has definitely been a crucial platform for people to connect, gain first hand information on the situation as well as find family or loved ones. Twitter released a guide for Japanese users to help people get information and communicate as broadly as possible. Hashtags have been created for specific topics such as #Jishin for general earthquake information or #J_j_helpme to request for rescue or other aid. The international community can now get first hand information from Japanese Twitter users through Global Voices, which has translated specific blogs and Tweets from people affected by the disaster according to trending topics.
As for donations, HelpAttack lets users pledge money for every action taken on Facebook and Twitter to be donated to the Red Cross. The Red Cross also provides users with the convenience of donating directly through their Facebook fan page. Zynga partnered with Save the Children and is letting players of eight of their most popular games donate by purchasing specific virtual goods. Online deal sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial have rolled out special offers for donations as well, and the biggest conference for content creators in the world, South by South West Media Festival has launched SXSW4Japan in an effort to use their influence to raise support networks and donations.
The importance of social media is sometimes underestimated as just a way for marketers to reach target audiences. But the true influence of social media isn’t in the hands of brands, but the people. Through the crisis in Japan it is evident that the most important element of social media is a platform for people around the world to connect and communicate. In the case of Japan, social media is not just a way to get information but a platform to find loved ones, and a source to gain insight on personal accounts of the disaster. The buzz generated from the trending topics lends to the amount of donations for relief efforts which now have a much more convenient and simplified process. Social media is again proving its ability to bring people together and mobilize them for a bigger, better purpose. How else do you think social media can be used to mobilize people?