Tornadoes-Hit-Hard-OklahomaWith this week’s tornadoes in the Midwest, social media again demonstrated how it’s not only a source for real-time, front-line information, but is also a lifeline in times of natural disasters…not to mention an instant link connecting survivors with worried loved ones.

Even as the tornado was swirling through Joplin Sunday night, and in the wake of that devastating event, citizen journalists were furiously uploading eyewitness video footage to YouTube, and posting updates on Facebook at a rate of about 20 per second.  While traditional media coverage was hampered by Sunday night skeleton staffs, travel, downed power lines and swamped telephone signals, there was a steady flow of images and information nevertheless.

Thanks to social media applications, townspeople and out-of-towners alike have been able to find and confirm the safety of loved ones and seek comfort through Twitter, Facebook and texting. One trapped victim was safely pulled from the wreckage after being able to text his location to a friend. Prayer groups have formed on Facebook and Twitter as well. Joplin residents have also used social media to track down or report items that were carried from their homes by the massive tornado.

As social media applications continue to evolve, Long Island public relations firms like Epoch 5 Public Relations increasingly use these tools to connect with journalists and editors, and help our clients connect with their customers.  While marketers are focused on the commercial applications of social media, social media indisputably helps us connect in meaningful ways with our community.

As the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001 approaches, one has to wonder how that day may have played out differently if we had the social media tools we have today.