Social Media & the Queensland Floods
Wow. What a terrible start to 2011 it’s been for so many people in Queensland. Our very best wishes and thoughts are with all of the families that have lost their homes and loved ones, and been affected by the worst national disaster in Queensland’s history.
Like most Australians, the team here at Big Click have been following the updates very closely – and we’re all aghast at the scale and the speed with which they have spread, and the damage they’ve caused.
While all of the television stations have been providing extensive, day-long coverage of the disaster, we were particularly impressed by the fairly unprecedented level of coverage that the flood received online, and across social media. We were reminded, yet again, of just how important the internet and social media is in today’s world, and the role it plays in enabling up-to-the-minute details to be shared and disseminated.
Here are a few ways in which we noticed that the internet and social media has helped in this major crisis:
Collecting online donations
Enabling donations to be made via online payment channels, the internet has been a sensational way of collecting funds and quickly allocating them into the right channels. In fact, if you haven’t already done so, you can donate online using a secure payment form on the Queensland Government website. Thousands of businesses have promoted this link on their own websites and are calling for donations – and at the time of writing, the Government has raised a whopping $35 million.
Facilitating corporate support
Plenty of retailers and private businesses are also using the internet and associated channels to independently collect donations from their members and customers – and share them with devastated Queenslanders. The results of some of these donations have been quite staggering.
For instance, on Wednesday the 12th of January – the day that the floods were reaching the Brisbane CBD, online retailer Cudo (www.cudo.com.au) called for online donations from members – saying that they would match every dollar that was donated. In just two hours, Cudo raised a whopping $100,000 for the relief fund. Impressive.
And it’s not just corporations who are getting organised and calling for donations. Plenty of individuals are too. One online user has set up a $1 donation PayPal button, which has been quite heavily promoted on Twitter. He is encouraging each of his 900+ Twitter followers to each donate $1.
Yet while lots of companies are calling for donations and agreeing to match the donations of their members or customers, there are some who haven’t done so in the most tasteful of ways. Bing Lee, for instance, specified that they would donate $1 for every ‘like’ of their Facebook page – and received considerable backlash in social media channels for attempting to raise their Facebook fan page under the guise of charity.
Avoiding payment scams
Believe it or not – there are some horrid people out there trying to scam donation money. However, with the help of social media, people are quickly becoming aware of which channels are fraudulent, and which are genuine. You can read more here if you’re interested.
Another key website that’s trying to make a real difference in the crisis is www.floodaid.com.au – which launched very quickly after the floods, and can be followed on Twitter. The site claims to be a social platform that connects those in need, with those willing to help. They are currently developing mobile applications to add to the effort.
Interestingly, they have also just launched www.floodaid.com.br in response to the devastating floods which have just hit Brazil.
Providing up-to-the-minute information
Perhaps most importantly, Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels have played a vital role in allowing information about the flood crisis to be immediately shared with millions of people all over the world.
A recent tweet, for instance, urges people to take in stranded animals:
PLEASE REPOST: QLD Floods, Fairfield RSPCA is going under water, anyone who can take in any animals please call (07) 3426 9999 #qldfloods
Another spreads the word about volunteer efforts:
For the great many Qlders who want to help others during and after the flooding-register on VolunteeringQld hotline 1800994100 #qldfloods
And another provides information on yet another donation avenue:
Got Virgin Blue Velocity points? Exchange them for donations to #qldfloods http://bit.ly/e6gxjb #bnefloods #travel #virginblue #brisbane
Interestingly, there have even been a few tweets criticising mainstream media coverage, such as this one:
Yet again, Channel 9 showing pics and footage from Twitter, etc., without attribution. Bad form. #qldfloods
These tweets are of course just a handful of examples from thousands upon thousands of tweets from all over the world, relating to the crisis.
Facebook has also played a key role in generating assistance, with countless websites set up to provide information and collect donations and offer words of support.
A Facebook website for Queensland Flood Pet Options, for instance, enables people to quickly and easily share information about pets and arrange to provide care for needy animals. On this site, people have been volunteering to host animals, sharing their contact details, and arranging pick-up and drop-off locations.
Online blogs have also provided a great vehicle for people to share their personal stories – such as this great account by Matt Granfield, whose mum was temporarily missing in the floods at Toowoomba. Thankfully, she was found safe and sound.
And of course, YouTube has been a fantastic channel for TV stations, businesses and individuals to share their video footage of the tragedy with people all over the world, such as this video upload by ABC news.
It’s certainly been a crazy week online. And while we’re incredibly saddened by the disaster, we’re extremely impressed by the way Australians have rallied together to show their support – particularly via the web. Hopefully it will all go some way to healing the wounds.
Queensland, our thoughts are with you.