The growth of social media has been an integral part of our society over the past 10+ years. From keeping up with friends and family; to getting a new job; to finding new clients, people across the globe have found one reason or another to be on a social network. Recently, people in the lines of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma used social media as a way to seek help during the storms.
With limited cellphone service and electricity out for thousands of people, social media came as a form of rescue by providing real-time updates on storm tracks, and a place for people to state where they were located so emergency crews could provide help.
One of the best examples of social media coming to the rescue was when a photo of residents at an assisted-living facility were shown sitting in waist high water due to floods went viral. According to USA Today, Twitter user Tim McIntosh tweeted the photo from Tampa, FL just before 9am Eastern along with a cry for help. His mother-in-law actually owned the facility in Dickinson, Texas, just outside of Houston. Thankfully, the tweet was retweeted almost 3,000 times and the residents were rescued a little after 12 pm.
Also, since cellphone service was dicey during the storms, many people relied on Facebook and other networks instead of calling 911 as they normally would. Amie Swinford, an unofficial volunteer during Hurricane Harvey, was able to help those in Houston by using the Facebook group Hurricane Harvey 2017 – Together We Will Make It. "When you see that somebody has posted that they're on their roof with their one-, three- and four-year-olds and the water's up to the roof line, you have to be willing to make that phone call for them," she says. Winford, located north of Houston, contacted emergency services and sent out tweets on behalf of those who reached out in this group to help get them to safety (www.npr.com).
Over the years, people have complained about Facebook and other networks being used as a platform to belt out harsh political views over and over again and to share ‘useless’ videos. It’s been refreshing to see social networks used as a true lifeline for those desperately in need of help. As a social media manager, you tend to think you’ve seen it all. In this case, I welcome that ‘in awe’ feeling of seeing what communities can accomplish in a time of need in the future.