The Power of Checking In

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As part of the marketing community we often concentrate on utilizing social media and the data collected from it, to develop campaigns and understand our consumers. However, during times of natural disasters and community crises, we are reminded of other, more meaningful uses of these platforms–to help connect people in need.

After this Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal, some of social media and technology’s largest brands rolled out tools to help locate individuals and help communities understand where to direct help. Facebook launched it’s Safety Check feature, where users in the affected area can check in to tell family members and friends that they are okay. Similarly, Google launched it’s Person Finder tool, which hosts a database of people who are accounted for (the database currently contains over 6,200 records). Airbnb has set up an emergency response tool that helps those stuck without shelter to find a temporary solution.

These tech companies have traditionally done an exceptional job helping people connect with one another in the immediate aftermath of a crisis, but have not rolled out any programs designed specifically for ongoing support in the months and years where rebuilding occurs. Thinking about how social media platforms utilize data, Morgan and Caitria O’Neill of created flexible software that allows community organizers to prepare for crises before they occur. In their TED talk, the O’Neill sisters explain how this software works and how it came to fruition after their own experiences trying to use Facebook to organize their community after a tornado leveled their hometown (you can watch the TED talk here).

These tools are excellent examples of how the rise of social media continues to change how we as humans connect with each other beyond just the digital world.

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