A Social Media world and what we are learning from Haiti

There has been a thought percolating in the back of my mind as I watch the incredible response by ordinary people which in turns seems to be prompting corporations to step forward in ways that they haven't in the past.

I said to my wife one night while we were watching the early days in Haiti being reported on CNN that unlike past disaster responses the one in Haiti is being powered by social media. This response was different from all responses to other disasters that have come before it.

Even though we had things like Twitter and Facebook at the time of the Asian Tsunamis and Hurricane Katrina this time feels different somehow. This time it feels more of a social movement rather than the use of software tools to get some thing done. This time feels like there is more of a social soul involved in our reaching out to help in the only ways we know how.

This living tsunami of feeling and desire to help came through in SMS text messages, Twitter hashtags and I am sure on Facebook as well. Using those vehicles the groundswell people reaching out had a way to show the world t hat we care. We gave notice that those in devastated Haiti would not be ignored and left to their own devices.

While we have been getting use to news organizations getting boots on the ground to let the world know what was happen there was a feeling that we moved even quicker. It seemed that no sooner had Twitter reported the 7.0 earthquake than news organizations like CNN were there. There is no more breathing room between the event and the reporting and I think it is because of social media that we are seeing this type of response.

We have through social media services but the news organizations on notice - we want to know what is happening now .. not a day from now, not even 12 hrs from now. The unspoken threat is that if they don't then we will find a way to fill that void on our own so use our tools that we have created, use our ways to reach out through social media and let us know what is happening in our world.

The biggest threat to any change that Social Media can bring to our society is ourselves and our easy distraction by all those cool shiny tools we use daily to be a part of Social Media. As Scott Henderson at Shamble.com puts it

Focus on Impact, Not Shiny ObjectsThe Internet has made us lazy. There are new, exciting tools. Collaboration happens quickly. Individuals can have impact. But, we are focusing on the shiny thing, not the impact.

Technology won’t solve these issues.

What will? How you use them. How you support people’s interest in acting. How you teach, engage, and mobilize is key.

This is not an awareness issue. Pink ribbons, wristbands, and hashtags are fleeting.

We need a shift. A shift in thinking. A shift in behavior. A shift in approach. A shift in how dollars are spent.

But I think that is something that Haiti is doing. It is giving us that shift. We are able to see with a real sense of immediacy of how we are helping. We are seeing that Social Media is more than the tools. We are seeing that what we say and think can be listened to and acted upon.

We are learning a lot from Haiti and we are learning that we now have an incredibly powerful vehicle through which we as individuals can effect change. This could very well be the real starting point where we realize that Social Media is the people's vehicle for change as long as we don't keep getting distracted and caught up in all those shiny tools .

The tide could be turning and that is exciting.