April 12 2011

Japan Earthquake: Social Media Unites Countries During Natural Disaster

In the wake of last month’s horrific natural disaster in Japan, the world has shown nothing but an outpouring of support and relief for the badly battered nation. The digital response to such a devastating tragedy has been equally impressive and far-reaching, if not more. The earthquake and aftermath in Japan has proved that the power of social media can bring together concerned residents from across the globe and provide aid at all levels of relief.  Here are some of the ways that the internet has responded to such a tragedy of global proportions:

  • Finding the survivors

Just hours after the quake rocked the Japanese coast, Google launched its Person Finder service to help people search for their loved ones in the affected area. The project originally was a product of the Haiti Earthquake relief efforts from last year and has up to now tracked more than 607,000 individual records.  The Person Finder service is searching for more and more survivors and victims on a daily basis thanks to government databases and news organizations.  Google wasn’t the only method helping family and friends reach those affected.  In the initial period following the quake, many of the United States’  major telecommunications carriers offered their customers free calls to Japan to help search for loved ones and find out developing information.

  • The Daily Deal approach

Texting to the American Red Cross is an easy way to send a quick donation to an affected area in search of aid, but Daily Deal provider Living Social took this practice to the next level.  Days after the tragedy, the nation’s second-largest Daily Deal provider ran a half-day promotion, matching donors dollar for dollar in five-dollar increments up to $1,000,000. The deal was s0 successful; Living Social went over their original pledge and ended up raising over 2.3 million dollars. Their contribution was over 1/5th of the American Red Cross’s initial allotment to the ongoing relief efforts.

  • Social networks prevail

As Japan’s mobile devices stopped working due to the disruption, survivors and residents of Japan relied heavily on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with contacts abroad. Says one American, “I’ve been using the internet to speak exclusively.  The phone networks have been down…but luckily the hotel has internet.”  Over 16,000 videos documenting the earthquake and its aftermath were uploaded to YouTube, helping to show the world the magnitude of the disaster from the ground level.

The response to the natural disaster in Japan and its aftermath has been incredible and I hope that the continuing relief efforts will last longer than the initial support and relief efforts that were generated in Haiti.  Will social media’s power and response be enough to keep interest in the ongoing relief efforts in Japan strong?

Barrett Lane

Barrett Lane is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania where he is pursuing a Master of City Planning with a concentration in Urban Design. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University. Prior to joining The Grid, Barrett was the Director of Creative Content at Yipit, and most recently interned with the New York City Department of City Planning. He currently lives in Philadelphia, PA.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 12th, 2011 at 12:37 pm and is filed under Branding, Content, Environmental Non-Profit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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