Last week Hurricane Sandy left much of the east coast of America in tatters. Whilst the hurricane swept across New York and other states, social media was to be one of the most powerful platforms in which aid was offered.
Social media served as a useful tool for family and friends to keep tabs on each other during storm, with an estimated 20 million tweets about the catastrophe on Twitter.
Many good deeds were performed because of it. Twitter along with other social networks such as Google and Facebook notably announced a number of initiatives to aid US-based users affected by Hurricane Sandy. Twitter gave free Promoted Crisis tweets to @RedCross, @FEMA, @NYCOffice, and @MDMEMA. The site also listed resources on its blog and gave #Sandy a custom page. (* http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2012/10/29/twitter-offers-promoted-crisis-tweets-to-redcross-fema-and-more-in-wake-of-hurricane-sandy/)
Hurricane Sandy has also seemed to inspire an extension of social media goodwill. In light of the storm Facebook announced the launch of charitable contributions – allowing Facebook to recommend buying charitable gifts for birthdays or other special occasions. Each time you buy a charitable Facebook Gift, you or the receiver of your gift also has the option of choosing a non-profit recipient.
A few companies however incurred an immediate backlash over their attempts to ‘newsjack’ the hurricane to promote their brand. American Apparel showed how not to promote a sale with a Hurricane Sandy sale.
The company sent out an e-mail blast for a 20% off sale for people living in the affected states, with a tagline that read, “In case you’re bored during the storm.” But the clothing retailers weren’t the only ones who faced a backlash. Gap had to release an apology for an insensitive tweet relating to the storm. They deleted their tweet in light of the immediate criticism and released this tweet as an apology. (http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/american-apparel-gap-blasted-hurricane-sandy-ad-fails-144905)
Gap Inc. has since donated $1 million to the charities supporting victims of the storm and has also given away more than $250,000 worth of clothing to the American Red Cross.
Hurricane Sandy may have been a devastating storm but the event has shown the power of social media as people are increasingly turning to social networking in times of crisis, both to notify friends and loved ones about their status and to find out news from the broader Web.