“Transcending Aid: Social Relief Efforts in the Japan Tsunami Crisis” (Respone Marketing Blog)

In the wake of one of the largest natural tragedies since the earthquakes of Haiti, people around the globe are constantly searching for ways in which they can assist the survivors of the devastating Tsunami in Japan. The wall of water destroyed and displaced thousands of families, leaving over 7,000 dead and 17,000 missing (according to Japan’s National Police Agency). Those remaining wander the wreckage in search of food, shelter, and hope of finding their missing loved ones.

With such a massive search going on, Japanese cellular airwaves are overwhelmed and unable to process a majority of the calls being attempted. However, in the fall of one hope there comes another: the social sphere. Since the disaster struck, multiple social media networks have been utilized for various reasons aimed at assisting those remaining. Twitter has been carrying numerous hashtags, such as #prayforjapan and location-based tags, where people are tweeting in hopes of locating those that are still missing. YouTube’s global affairs channel called “Citizen Tube,” now hosts video messages calling for those lost as well. Google has even created an entire “Crisis Response Page” to aid the Japanese. This page offers a plethora of information involving travel, maps, and their “Person Finder” application where requests for missing persons may be submitted and publically viewed.

In addition to losing those close to them, survivors have also lost nearly all of their possessions and homes. Separately from attempts to locate people, multiple online outlets have also launched donation campaigns to bring aid to the victims. First widely utilized during the Haiti crisis, The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army are utilizing text message campaigns that allow a simple text to donate up to $10 in relief at the press of a button. These efforts have received massive exposure on Twitter alone, and have already received a tremendous amount of support. Apple’s iTunes has also jumped into the relief effort, offering the option of donation in their worldwide music marketplace.

Other online services have also come up with creative ways to gather funds for the relief effort. Deals site LivingSocial partnered with The American Red Cross by asking for $5 donations from its users and then matching each donation. This matched donation campaign raised an astounding $2,301,130 for the recovery of the battered cities. Online gaming communities have also monetized donations towards the crisis relief. Social gaming company Gaia now offers special edition digital accessories that can be purchased for your personal avatar, directly benefit the relief funding. Even the creators of the Facebook Farmville frenzy reached out to lend a helping hand. Zynga has asked it’s hard-working digital farmers to send out a donation to Japan in exchange for some special edition, wither-resistant crops.

Social media has grown and flourished from one key aspect: sociability. The communities on Facebook and Twitter can be tighter knit and more reliant on peers than some real-life networks. When members of the community are in trouble, people will turn to each other for help. For those who have doubted this connectivity and power, take a look at the amazing altruism being cultivated in this digital sphere today. A tweet, a like, and a click can now save a life.

View on the Response Marketing Blog 2/29/11

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