Thursday, August 12, 2010

Social Media to the Rescue?

Yesterday, the tools of "social media" made an indelible mark on me. When a friend's in trouble, you react with whatever tools are available to you... and what struck me funny last night, is that the first place I turned to when I heard of her predicament was Facebook and LinkedIn.

Her day started with the curious sounds of mooing...

Turns out that the 6 inches of rain that had fallen the night before had caused the peaceful Rush River to swell into a monster, rising 8 feet and sweeping away a herd of cows returning back to their barn for milking. As her basement filled with water, she wondered what could be done, where the rescue, if any, was coming from and how she was going to get through the day with her son. Apparently, she had time enough to snap a couple of photos and post them to her Facebook page.

Her friends commented how tragic it was and offered her comforting words of encouragement. But, eating, breathing and sleeping marketing often makes one take different steps in light of such an event. If she was going to get some help, she needed attention — right away.

I'd put on my hip boots and jump in my Suburban to help, trouble was, I live 300 miles away. Yet what I had seen and read of the events of her day was a news story. Press coverage of her situation, and that of her neighbors, should only be made better if a news crews were on hand to shed some light on the slow tragedy that floods render.

But who do I know in the media somewhere near her farm?

Having lived in the area as a kid, I knew that all of the press coverage comes from the Twin Cities. I immediately checked into LinkedIn and searched WCCO, KARE, KMSP and the StarTribune Newspaper. To my surprise, one of KARE's reporters is a high school classmate of mine. He was even an existing Facebook friend — I just didn't know he was a reporter! I fired off a story tip for him on LinkedIn and Facebook hoping that he might check one of them (Facebook, BTW, won the day).

Meanwhile, others saw some of these posts and offered up their suggestions. We found a staff writer at the StarTribune and passed the same story tip on to him via the same channels.

Not more than 10 minutes later, I received confirmation that KARE-TV was packing their cameras and heading East to cover the story for TV and online.

My friend's TV & press report.
A competitor station picked up the story.
The Milwaukee Paper grabs the story.
And is finally picked up by the AP in the Chicago Tribune.

Social media is immediate, connective and viral. It's very hard to manufacture a viral chain of events, but if the story is honest and strong, you'll get traction. From fads to floods, crazes to cows, social media offers immediate impressions if you can put together the proper pieces.

As I write this, the waters are receding, but the damage done is significant. It's gratifying to know that I could play a part in getting others to care and provide some assistance, but now I'm left with the notion, "What's next?" Alerting people to the problems that our friends and neighbors face is important, but an actionable plan and real recovery are still in need. 

Social media doesn't have a tool for that yet... but, I'm working on it.

Do you have any suggestions? I'd be happy to hear them.