The horrific attacks in Mumbai gave the world a preview of the potential impact social media has on the nation of India.
According to CNN, an estimated 80 tweets were being sent via SMS every five seconds, providing eyewitness accounts and updates.
And while many Twitter users sent pleas for blood donors to visit specific hospitals in Mumbai during and after the attacks, the Indian Red Cross Society did not appear to use Twitter or any other social media platform to reach potential donors.
Humanitarian organizations in India like the Red Cross should take note of the fact that social media can be an effective way to engage both citizens and donors.
- Low cost: The economic downturn has resulted in fewer donors and cuts to marketing budgets. More non-profits in India will need to begin relying on low-cost marketing tools like social media to reach donors in a meaningful way.
- Efficient. Emergency information can be distributed to citizens and donors more quickly through social media channels, particularly through microblogging services such as Twitter. Even optimized press releases can take hours to reach a target audience during a critical period. Social media is instantaneous and viral.
- Engaging. Nothing pulls at donors’ heartstrings like images of their fellow citizens. YouTube videos and photos on flickr can serve as powerful tools to motivate donors to become more involved in a cause or specific campaign.
The Indian Red Cross Society could have made a call for blood donors via Twitter and GupShup seconds after the Mumbai attacks. Including a link in the message could have led donors to locations in Mumbai where donations were needed.
Further, these “Red Cross authenticated” messages could have helped potential blood donors avoid confusion given the multitude of blood donation-related tweets that emerged after the attacks.
Mumbai taught us that, during times of strife, people across India are willing to help and have stories to tell. It’s up to humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross to empower these citizens with the right tools to reach out and share these experiences.