Walmart came to the rescue in the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster, bringing food and water to victims before the government and many aid groups. Ten years later, in the 2015 Nepal earthquake tragedy, it is Twitter who is coming to the rescue. Even the Nepal government is using Twitter. In fact, the Hindustan Times wrote the following: “Twitter has become the most effective tool for ministers and officials to coordinate relief or help people in distress after Saturday’s massive earthquake in Nepal.”
As the earthquake victims struggle to survive, Baltimore residents and police are dealing with rioters who are looting and burning the city, along with throwing rocks at officers, after the death of a man who was in police custody. The police department is using Twitter to alert people of dangerous neighborhoods, ask parents to make sure their children are not among the rioters, dispatch information about injured officers, and circulate any news that is important to those who live in the city.
Twitter presents an unbiased viewpoint. While the police give out information they think is important during the riots, those who are taking to the streets and waging what they call a protest also post tweets. Followers have an opportunity to listen to both sides and form an opinion of the event, perhaps even deciding to get involved themselves. These followers may be among the people who are trying to put an end to the violence. An argument can be made that some of that violence is quelled because rioters have a chance to tell their side of the story through this peaceful medium.
For citizen journalists, it is Twitter to the rescue again. Anyone can become a reporter for a happening that has been propelled into the national consciousness, as people have in the Nepal earthquake or Baltimore riots. Any person can break a major story, as the people on the streets watching the Boston Marathon did when they tweeted the first news about the bombing, including photos of the explosions. Anyone can tweet about an event that may not be told otherwise. Regardless of the subject, a tweet can record it in real time.
Twitter is the online place to go for those who want to learn about the latest news event before most of the mainstream media covers it. While Twitter may not help provide the personal assistance that it does in natural disasters, its effect with breaking news is profound nonetheless. Anderson Cooper let followers know that a police officer had shot a man in the back, and it was caught on tape. CNN reported on the latest details of the AirAsia disaster as the search unfolded. TMZ told followers about the death of Michael Jackson. Details of a story, reported in a friend to friend way, bring followers close to an event.
While it is a fact that Twitter plays an important role in natural disasters, man-made problems, and breaking news, the online social networking service is a leader in other ways. Imagine that a mother has just found out her child has a rare medical condition, and she wants to contact a scientist who is doing research pertinent to that condition. Twitter is a great platform for communication. There is even a K-index, which compares scientists’ number of Twitter followers, and a list of the 50 most followed scientists.
For business strategy, whether a politician is ready to announce his campaign, an entrepreneur wants to bring a new product to the marketplace, or a company is excited about an IPO, Twitter is a great forum for introduction. Personal wants cannot be forgotten either, whether it is a check on stock market trends or a search for a great movie on Netflix. For needs big or small, for an event that will be remembered by all or just by one, Twitter comes to the rescue, ready to serve.
By Shelley Kuziak