Social Media and Gustav: How You Can Help and What You Can Learn

Rick Burnes
Rick Burnes

Updated:

Published:

This morning, as most of us clear out email built up over the long weekend, folks along the Gulf Coast have far more difficult clearing out to do. Yesterday Hurricane Gustav spun across Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, forcing thousand to evacuate and threatening large-scale flooding. gustave

The storm also provided some great examples of the power of social media.

Dozens of Facebook groups appeared to coordinate recovery, a wiki was created to centralize links, a Gustav-related social network was set up on Ning.com and Twitter accounts were created to broadcast hurricane-related government alerts and more .

By far the most important outcome of all these projects is that it's easier for people to find out what's going on, and help out. (Encouraged by what I read on all these sites, I gave money at redcross.org . You can do the same here .)

In addition to facilitating action, the social media response to Gustav illustrates four important lessons for companies trying to figure out how to use social media:

(1) React Quickly to Events -- All the web sites and services I linked to above were created over Labor Day weekend. They didn't require months of planning -- just leadership and initiative to get going. You should take a similar approach with your business. Word spreads quickly on the web, so when people are talking about events in your community, you need to join the conversation in a hurry.

(2) Use the Tools at Your Disposal - The tools I linked to above don't have beautiful design, flawless user-interface and robust functionality, but that's OK. They're general-purpose tools that were able to be adapted on the fly. They're far better than nothing. Make similar compromises with your business. If you get hung up designing the perfect tools for the job, you'll either miss your window for success, or never get the job done in the first place.

(3) Experiment -- Some of the projects above worked and some of them didn't. That's perfectly OK, because they were all experiments, and all provided lessons. Nobody knew what was going to work beforehand, so it was important to try lots of things. You should approach your business' social media projects the same way. You don't know what will work, so don't be afraid to experiment.

(4) Do Well by Doing Good -- None of the projects I linked to above had any specific payoff for the people behind them. They were started out of a desire to be a part of the conversation and to help. Do the same thing with your business web site. Give away free information and tools. Offer resources to charities and non-profits. This is not only the right thing to do, but it will earn you respect, an important currency on the web.

What do you think about the social media reaction to Gustav? I'm sure I missed projects. Which others do you think provide important lessons?

 

  Social Media Marketing Kit
Topics: Social Media

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