Could Twitter and GupShup Become Life Lines in India?

Social networkingThe horrific attacks in Mumbai gave the world a preview of the potential impact social media has on the nation of India.

Just moments after the news of the terrorist attacks broke, the social media environment became flooded with flickr photos, eyewitness tweets, Facebook messages, and user-generated video reports.

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.

Here’s why:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

There are over 1 million Twitter users in India, sending 3 million messages per day.  SMS GupShup, a Twitter-like service in India, has 20 million members sending over 10 million messages per day.

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 inRed Cross Twitter 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.

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7 Responses to Could Twitter and GupShup Become Life Lines in India?

  1. Excellent job putting the pieces of a sad situation together to make a concrete recommendation on how to solve a unique challenge specific to the Indian market. Your visuals supported your post, the flow of your writing was good and the point and lesson in your post came through loud and clear. One of the best posts of the week. (4)

  2. […] Could Twitter and GupShup Become Life Lines in India? […]

  3. perezb says:

    Your post made me think about an aspect of the attacks and the aftermath that I had not considered. I have heard government officials talk about how they have used Twitter in an emergency to communicate updates to the public and the media in real-time, and to provide direction to the public in an emergency situation to get them out of harm’s way. Using it to bring an online community together to help their fellow human beings in the way you are suggesting would be outstanding.

  4. Shannon Barrett says:

    Great post! You definitely outlined a huge opportunity for not just humanitarian organizations during times of crisis (although a great example) but also for non-profit organizations and/or advocacy groups based on the three key principles you highlighted.

  5. juliaccartwright says:

    Your post made me think about how first responders to 9.11 might have managed the crisis differently in the age of social media. Imagine if victims in the Twin Towers had been tweeting their need for help sooner and where to come to find them. Could more lives have been saved? It is sad to ponder the answer, but my suspicion is that the answer is yes.

  6. starla stiles says:

    Your post made some very good points about the value of social media in crisis situations. The American Red cross has taken this message to heart and now provides disaster and preparedness updates in real time through twitter, facebook and youtube.

  7. kstel2 says:

    Interesting post Alex. It makes me think of what could have happened if we would have untilized social media tools such as Twitter, when other crisis situation that the Red Cross was responsible for responding to, such as Katrina, and how it would have made a serious difference in the lives of many people.

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