When the phone lines were completely useless after Haiti’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake, there was only one outlet in which to spread the word on the disaster at hand: the internet.
In the new world of real-time web results, Haitians that could used Twitter to spread the word quickly. Many people were posting photos and stories about what was going on before any journalists could get there to document the aftermath. Many people saw or heard about what was going on with Haiti before any news outlet made any initial broadcasts.
More importantly, knowing how Twitter spreads a message like wildfire, many people began using it yesterday as a fundraising tool for relief. The Red Cross sent out a tweet that was re-tweeted multiple times over spreading the word of a text-messaging campaign to help raise money. As of this morning the latest report said that over $1 million had been raised for Hatian relief efforts. Even American Airlines is joining in on the help spreading the message on Twitter how they are flying doctors and nurses down there for free, listing a contact number for more information on how to help.
With all the hype around social media, many tend to wonder if it’s really effective and a good use of time. After these rapid fundraising efforts I would say, at least this week, it’s one of the most efficient communication tools we have.