Twitter Proves Mettle in Sandy, Despite Hoaxes

Social Media Provides Two-Way Information Lifeline in Crisis

Staying in Touch: As Sandy struck, many found smart phones and social media to be their information lifelines.
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Staying in Touch: As Sandy struck, many found smart phones and social media to be their information lifelines.

By Reuters

Published October 31, 2012.
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At the Red Cross of America’s Washington D.C. headquarters, in a small room called the Digital Operations Center, six wall-mounted monitors display a stream of updates from Twitter and Facebook and a visual “heat map” of where posts seeking help are coming from.

The heat map informed how the Red Cross’s aid workers deployed their resources, said Wendy Harman, the Red Cross director of social strategy.

The Red Cross was also using Radian6, a social media monitoring tool sold by Salesforce.com, to spot people seeking help and answer their questions.

“We found out we can carry out the mission of the Red Cross from the social Web,” said Harman, who hosted a brief visit from President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

SPREADING INFORMATION

Twitter, which in the past year has heavily ramped up its advertising offerings and features to suit large brand marketers like Pepsico Inc and Procter & Gamble, suddenly found itself offering its tools to new kind of client on Monday: public agencies that wanted help spreading information.

For the first time, the company created a “#Sandy” event page - a format once reserved for large ad-friendly media events like the Olympics or Nascar races - that served as a hub where visitors could see aggregated information. The page displayed manually- and algorithmically-selected tweets plucked from official accounts like those of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who was particularly active on the network.

Agencies like the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and the New York Mayor’s Office also used Twitter’s promoted tweets - an ad product used by advertisers to reach a broader consumer base - to get out the word.

The company said offering such services for free to government agencies was one of several initiatives, including a service that broadcasts location-specific alerts and public announcements based on a Twitter user’s postal code.


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