Photo: Associated Press
Social media is most often thought of as the space to connect with friends (or share with them the latest laughing baby penguin video). But for the recent crisis in Japan, social platforms took on a much more serious and crucial role as a key information resource.
Since the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, social platforms have become hubs for critical information, a method to search for loved ones, and a way to raise urgent funds for relief efforts. After the earthquake, the U.S. embassy in Tokyo even sent a message to U.S. citizens in Japan encouraging them to use social media to connect with family. Millions of users have gone to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Mixi, and other sites to share and find the latest information. According to Tweet-o-Meter, within hours of the earthquake there were over 1,200 Tweets per minute coming from Tokyo. User data like that reminds us that social media is an essential global tool in both times of peace (and, er, baby penguins) and times of immense crisis.
One particularly noteworthy aspect of the crisis response, a trend that we are seeing with previous natural disasters, is the use of mobile. Japanese citizens turned to their mobile devices when all other methods of communications were tied up. Com Score reported a significant spike in mobile usage after the earthquake and tsunami. Mobile communications were not only used for Japanese citizens to communicate, but texting also played a vital role in fundraising. Similar to their efforts for the earthquake in Haiti, the Red Cross implemented a donation by text campaign which has raised millions of dollars for the efforts so far. Other organizations have also set up donations via text message, including Save the Children and the Salvation Army.
The following are some additional highlights of the use of social media during the crisis in Japan:
- Google Person Finder Google launched this name database site within hours of the earthquake it can be used to look up or report missing people.
- YouTube Video Person Finder Similar to the Google person finder, this YouTube channel aggregates messages from earthquake survivors.
- Japan Earthquake Facebook Page An Australian news.com Facebook page with over 17,000 Likes, used as a community for information sharing.
- Twitter Hashtags A variety of hashtags have been created in response to the disaster including #Tsunami, #JapanQuake and #Japan just to name a few.
- Crowdrise Hope for Japan An aggregate of various Crowdrise fundraising opportunities that has raised over $1,200,000 so far.
- Flickr Galleries A variety of Flickr galleries have been set up with cross promotions for donation opportunities.
- Live Blogging from Al Jazeera The news site provided live blog coverage of the earthquake’s aftermath.
- Quakebook A charity book created solely from Tweets about the earthquake.