Here we are. One and one half weeks after Tropical Storm Irene’s unwelcome, and now unforgettable, visit to Vermont.
While my previous post focused on the negative impacts of social media on headline sensationalism and spreading misinformation, it’s also important to highlight the positive role of social media for building an audience and distributing information to those both near and far.
Luke, Mondo’s owner and founder, has led a prime example by harnessing the power of the digital message board to unite community, inform the masses and aid progress as we begin to rebuild. When the sun came out the day after Irene wrought unimaginable destruction on his small town, Luke was back on his computer, creating a Facebook page dedicated to keeping his neighbors and their families well informed.
“It’s my way of helping out,” Luke says modestly. “I mean, I don’t have an excavator. You have to pitch in the best way you know how.”
Luke has spent countless hours touring where he can by bike to survey the damage — capturing video and snapping photos to upload to the web. His posts have educated and connected townspeople, by increasing awareness about gatherings where food, supplies and information are available. (The photo above is of a recent town meeting and potluck at the Williamsville Hall.)
Since the page went live just over a week ago, it has already grown to over 650 followers. Many are residents of South Newfane and Williamsville, others are just folks from adjacent towns eager to keep an eye on the developments and lend a hand where they can. Other towns including Marlboro and Jamaica quickly followed suit, developing pages to document the relief efforts and progress in their respective communities.
The success of this platform has proven itself by operating on three key rules for developing a social media campaign.
Meet a need: Provide information that is relevant to your audience and, when possible, not readily accessible to everyone. Your reputation as a news source will precede you.
Give them the goods: Internet culture has taught us to believe what we see before what we read. Give the viewer as much media as they can handle, as regularly as possible. Photos are a great start, but video delivers the most information per second. There’s no room for rumors or heresay when people can plainly see what’s going on.
Listen. Respond.: Be open to questions, suggestions and even criticism. To thrive in the social media arena, you must adapt to the demands of your environment, and that means your audience. Irene example: Luke received dozens of comments on YouTube in response to his video updates on road conditions. Some people asked for specific check-ins with their friends and family in the area — Luke went back out the next day and filmed them safe and sound.
The same rules apply for us here at Mondo Mediaworks. We invite feedback and comments, so please, share your thoughts on the positive/negative role social media plays during a crisis.