Shakespeare wrote the most celebrated plays in the English language not because he sat down to create great art but because he had to pay bills. In this way, modern bloggers and content marketers are not such a far cry from Shakespeare. We make our living making words that speak to our audience and serve a purpose.
As most of you know already know, spectators and runners at the Boston Marathon were brutally and cowardly attacked on Monday afternoon.
Living in a world run by social media, most of the information spread yesterday were consumed by people on social networking sites, rather than the major news networks.
Over the course of the day, I relied on social media to provide me with information. These networks included Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, YouTube, and Reddit. I know I wasn’t the only one. Here are the various uses of how I gathered information during this terrible incident:
Like most news nowadays, Twitter was spreading information on the incident well before the main television networks (CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, etc.) were talking about it. I personally found out about the bombing from this Facebook post from Deadspin.
The post was a picture from above the scene where the first bomb detonated. The photo came from Twitter user @theoriginalwak. The caption was fitting considering no one knew what happened at the time: “what the [blank] just happened?”
From there, I was able to follow the story through tweets of people that I know that were in Boston. I had an eye on my Twitter feed earlier in the day because of the Red Sox game going on and noticed that Ramsey Mohsen was tweeting pictures and video from his vantage point of the Boston Marathon. Mohsen is from Kansas City and was watching Ali Hatfield (also from Kansas City) race.
Ramsey’s sister, Sarah, detailed how she got in contact with her brother to find out he was safe (who then communicated that information to her parents and friends) on her blog.
Twitter accounts such as the @BostonGlobe, @RunnersWorld, @AmalieBenjamin, and @GregHall24 (The Daily Kansan interviewed Greg and you can read about his story here) did a great job of providing a mix of first-hand accounts plus actual reporting and telling people where to and where not to go.
Here are just a few of the tweets that helped paint the picture for those outside of Boston:
BREAKING: A witness reports hearing two loud booms near the Boston Marathon finish line.
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) April 15, 2013
BAA: 4,496 runners crossed the 40K mark and did not reach finish line. 1,246 runners were diverted/stopped before 40K.
— Runner’s World (@runnersworld) April 15, 2013
#BostonMarathon runners: B.A.A. says Boston Common is the new family meeting area.
— Runner’s World (@runnersworld) April 15, 2013
Up until I went to college, I lived an hour and a half away from Boston. I have high school friends that now live in Boston and my brother occasionally goes to Boston for business trips. I was able to use Facebook to communicate with my parents to find out my brother wasn’t in the area. I was also able to find out that most of my friends in the area were either in their apartments or they were safely in lockdown in a business.
The first video I saw of the bombing came from the social network, Vine (which of course, I found on Twitter).
A Boston Globe reporter posted the first raw, unedited video of the bomb going off. It wasn’t uploaded onto to the Boston Globe server, but onto their YouTube page.
Google realized that people were looking for information on runners and spectators to see if they were okay. They opened up a system that allowed users to search for people by name and to note if they were safe, injured, missing or they hadn’t been accounted for. They posted this link on their Facebook and Twitter pages.
Reddit was constantly updating their main thread. Late Tuesday afternoon, they had six different threads full of sourced information. They mainly were able to aggregate all types of links from YouTube videos to tweets. They did a better job of organizing information than most main news sources.
Negative Comments and False Posts
Unfortunately, there are always some people who use tragedies like this to benefit themselves, to troll, or to just cause confusion. Fortunately, these people are in the minority.
Several people made up lies. One of the lies was about the child that passed away. They used photos of a girl saying she was running for Sandy Hook Elementary. This myth was debunked by the Joe Cassella Foundation on Facebook.
Other people used the attacks to talk about non-important issues like Barack Obama’s presidency, security at baseball games, social media posts from businesses, etc., and some people tweeted out blatant lies (e.g., the death toll). Gawker has a list of all the conspiracy theories.
Social Media’s Impact on the Tragedy
While there were certainly social media posts full of misinformation and deception, there was way more good that came from it. It serves as a reminder that social media is more than just posting funny pictures videos or updates about your life, it can be extremely informational and help people communicate important information.
There were moments when people couldn’t use a cell phone to make a call out of Boston on Monday. During that time, social media helped reassure people that their family members were okay and helped spread information that otherwise would not have been known.
It is in these moments when it is a good idea to be socially connected to the world because it might not only be the best way to communicate, but it could end up being the only way to communicate.
Some online review sites make joining and claiming your business a thorough and time-consuming event. Yahoo Local understands that your time is precious, so they make their process extremely simple. Just add in some basic information, upload some photos, and you’re good to go.
Last week, Pepsi launched a very interesting approach to expanding their social media campaign. Instead of cash, their new vending machine accepts Likes.
Pepsi teamed up with TBWA Belgium to create this interactive new vending machine which made its first debut at a Beyonce concert.
Launched in Antwerp, Belgium, the Pepsi Like Machine dispenses a drink in exchange for a Facebook “Like”.
Location based services work to make sure your smart phone is within a close vicinity to the machine. But the machine certainly doesn’t exclude those without smartphones. An interactive 42” touch screen also allows Facebook users to login right on the vending machine.
The screen will then prompt users to login to Facebook and “Like” Pepsi. Once they’ve liked it, they get to choose their favorite Pepsi and it’s dispensed below. A timer is also set up to ensure that users are properly logged out of their account shortly after they’ve liked the page.
Other than creating a buzz, Pepsi has certainly done more than create a new form of currency. Pepsi is gathering some priceless information by knowing just who has tried their product and liked their page.
So what will Coca-Cola do? It seems as though these two have always gone neck and neck in competing for the best advertisements.
Coca-Cola recently launched vending machines in Pakistan and India allowing citizens to send beverages to each other. This is not only unique, but interesting based off of the tensions between these countries. Coca-Cola also recently introduced the “world’s thinnest vending machine” in France featuring Diet Coke. It’s slender build of less than a foot in width makes it different, but still leaves out a social media influence.
It seems like Pepsi has mastered the objective of tying social media into a vending machine. Even better, they have also discovered a great way to gather intel on their customers by providing samples in exchange for some love on Facebook.
Belgium loved it. So will we start to see these in the U.S.? And will we start to see something similar from other companies?