Perception Is Reality

How Twitter Helped Haiti – #BeMyGuest

Posted on: March 30, 2010

David Clare writes a blog ‘The PR View’ at www.theprview.co.uk. David studies Public Relations and Marketing at the University of Lincoln. In his third and final year, he will graduate at the end of May this year. David wrote a dissertation on the uses of Twitter in Crisis Management and has a deep interest in the use of Social Media for Public Relations.

What Happened

On Tuesday 12 January, at 16.53 Haiti time, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti. This was quickly followed by two aftershocks, measuring 5.9 and 5.5 on the Richter scale.

The first aid relief didn’t arrive till two days later, by then an estimated 100,000 casualties were reported.

While many miracle stories of people being pulled out of the rubble over ten days after the quake, Port-au-prince experienced rioting and looting.

By Friday 22 January, after another aftershock had hit, the rescue effort was officially called off, however international teams kept up the search for survivors, with the most recent person pulled out 14 days after the quake hit.

The estimated number dead is 230,000.

Twitter

The earthquake received a huge response on Twitter.

In the UK, the major charities for worldwide aid form under the DEC -Disaster Emergency Committee. These include; Oxfam, the British Red Cross and World Vision and ten other charities.

DEC, @decappeal, have had a presence on Twitter since October 2nd 2009.

For the Haiti crisis, the DEC already had systems in place to act immediately and could instantly start Tweeting.

While it is unknown the exact amount that their Twitter account have contributed, we do know the SMS donations are mostly Twitter driven, which is likely to provide a considerable amount. For example the American Red Cross texts, mainly driven by Twitter, account for $8m.

Haiti trended for a long time on Twitter, by my count it was a trending topic every minute of every day for three weeks. Haiti has now stopped trending, however it was even longer than the initial three weeks till this happened.

Celebrities were extremely influential in the Twitter response to the disaster. The king of Twitter and most followed user, Ashton Kutcher, posted constantly on the issue, and is now setting up a new campaign to stop child slavery in Haiti with wife Demi Moore.

Final Thought

I expected that Haiti would last longer as a story on Twitter than it would on traditional media. This seemed to be the case, three weeks on Haiti was still trending on Twitter regularly, while traditional media was loosing coverage.

Now however, Haiti rarely trends on Twitter. It seems that the news of celebrity couple Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore recieved more coverage in traditional media than on Twitter.

Since the Haiti crisis, my respect for Twitter users has gone up and then back down. While Haiti did trend for  significant amount of time (and then of course Chile), it is irritating that #nowplaying and Justin Beiber trend continuously.

It seems Twitter is great for breaking news, but I encourage people to use it for other reasons than as a news source. My personal use for Twitter is networking, and I believe this is where it shines.

Please do not forget Haiti. To donate please click here.

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3 Responses to "How Twitter Helped Haiti – #BeMyGuest"

People get bored easy. I’m not saying that’s an excuse, just a fact.

As I can tell you guys: “I was there on that time, & it was so terrifying since I never felt such a shaking before…”

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About the Author…

Born in Karachi, Pakistan in an Adventist hospital, I grew up in a city where on one side I experienced poverty and oppression, while on the other I had the good fortune of Tabish Bhimani being a member of an upper middle-class business family...more...

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