There is no doubt that 2011 is the year when Mother Earth has been incredibly active, with the most notable results being earthquakes/tsunamis in New Zealand and Japan, cyclones and floods in Australia, and hurricanes on the East Coast of America.
I found it very interesting that for each and every one of these major events, the source of information for me and many others has not been the television, radio or newspapers, but social media.
Admittedly, this comes as no great surprise considering that so many of us now live our lives on and through social media. This is where we interact with others, socialize, spend our money, gather information and do business. So why would it not be the place where we obtain up-to-the-minute updates on global events?
Before we look at some tips at using this realization to work for you professionally, I just thought I might share my personal experiences in both being caught up in a natural disaster and observing from the outside, concerned for loved ones.
In January this year, my home city of Brisbane and surrounding areas flooded. Many people lost homes and possessions, while a few tragically lost their lives. The enormity of the flood was not known until literally a day before it hit, as is the case with so many other natural disasters. But even then, many of us did not take it seriously, still heading to work like any other day. While I had heard reports of a flood coming our way (via television and radio reports, I think), a phone call on the morning of the flood from my parents made me realize that it was real and my home was in the disaster zone.
What followed over the next 12-24 hours is something I will never forget, and I don’t really want to go into it in detail because it still causes an emotional reaction for me. But in general terms, my husband and I evacuated, and had just about two or three trips back to our home to gather important belongings while the water was rising around our ankles. We watched the creek behind our home surge and floodwaters engulf our beloved home, suburb and the homes of our neighbors and friends.
Electricity was cut for days while authorities waited for water to subside and for it to become safe for them to switch on the mains again. We were without television and only had a portable battery operated radio, but I couldn’t bear to listen to updates because it was just more of the same. While my phone battery lasted, I used Facebook on my cell phone (via status updates) to notify friends and loved ones in other areas of Brisbane and around the world that we were safe. I was also able to read relevant status updates by others as to conditions near my suburb that might affect transportation.
On the other side of the coin, very literally the first I had heard of the other natural disasters around the world was via status updates on Facebook. Friends of mine had posted about them. One of my best friends was in Tokyo, and I wasn’t sure if she had been affected by the tsunami. I also have friends and acquaintances in New York and was concerned about them during both the earthquake and Hurricane Irene.
When I asked for more specific information, either they or someone else on their page replied immediately. I found this to be a great benefit, because my specific questions were answered directly, and I didn’t have to trawl through news reports on public news outlets for information I was looking for.
I thought the other benefit was the information I received was so much more relevant to me. I wanted to know if my friends were OK, and how various places around the world I had come to know and love were affected. This is not necessarily information I would have received by tuning into a radio or television broadcast.
Furthermore, friends added photos and video content that was so much more personal than what a journalist might record. It was real and I could be there with them during the event.
It goes without saying that everything I have described also applies to positive events, such as the birth of a baby to a loved one, a celebrity wedding or an awards ceremony. If you are following a celebrity on Twitter or Facebook, this may alleviate the need to rely on traditional news or entertainment media to ‘get the goss’ (especially because this is exactly the same source journalists will use!).
Whether social media will replace all or a part of the need for traditional media remains to be seen, especially as it bleeds across into disseminating news in the areas of politics and business too.
So, how can you use social media to effectively disseminate your news? Here are my top tips:
Your social media platforms could become your very own news channel!