Social & Mobile Media: Saving Lives And Making A Difference

(originally posted on Friday, January 15, 2010

The horrors of the Haitian earthquake are absolutely tragic. But perhaps more than ever before it is now possible to quickly form and mobilize groups of people to help with relief efforts, raise money, or simply build awareness that help is needed.

Almost immediately after the news emerged from the impoverished island nation of Haiti, the formation of relief and awareness groups started to spring-up on Facebook. Phone companies began making donations to Haitian relief funds based on text messages. People began to search for information on the safety loved ones in Haiti via Twitter. And viral videos directing relief efforts from celebrities such as Wyclef Jean have started to make their way around the internet at speeds the traditional news media could never match.

The Facebook group “EVERY PERSON THAT JOINS WE WILL DONATE $1 TO HELP PEOPLE IN HAITI!” has attracted almost 600,000 members in just a few days, and has posted over 2,500 additional links to help promote the cause. Are they actually making these monetary donations? Hard to say from our observation, but a quick glance reveals peer-to-peer sharing of information for other relief efforts from the American Red Cross, OXFAM, and others. So at the very least, this group is an outstanding platform for information sharing.

One of the most visible relief efforts comes from Wyclef Jean, a celebrity musician with Haitian roots. He has used the power of his fame to spread the word about how you can donate money by texting “Yele” to 501501. Wyclef (@wyclef) has over 1.3 million Twitter followers and has dedicated his profile to spreading the word on how to help.

But the most impressive results thus far have come from The American Red Cross (www.redcross.org), who at the time of this writing have raised over $8 Million for Haitian relief by urging people to text “Haiti” to 90999. They didn’t do it by spending money on mass media–they just had a great idea for raising money, and they literally put the power to act in the hands of the people.

We are witnessing the maturation and mainstream acceptance of social and mobile media. By raising millions of dollars to save lives in Haiti, social and mobile media are quickly becoming two of the most powerful and effective communication tools on the planet.