Boston, Waco and How the People Empower Social Media

With wounds of the Boston Marathon bombings and Waco fertilizer plant explosions still fresh, we’re all witnessing the evolution of how we communicate, find facts, and even comfort ourselves in times of unexpected tragedy. We saw how social media was used to share and source information, amplify voices, and connect communities that are geographically far apart––all in real time.

Here’s what we saw happen.

Twitter was used 38% more than Facebook when it came to sharing the news.

Twitter users went to the social network to catch live updates, and share them with their network in an incredibly fast pace. It was the go-to network when the news broke, and people highly engaged with each other to spread the word. We also saw the Boston Police Department primarily using Twitter to get the word out about the suspects, polite scoldings, safety alerts, and details of the manhunt.

Email, Reddit, and Facebook were primarily used to have conversations.

This isn’t to say breaking news weren’t shared on these channels, but people came to these channels to talk about the events more than to find facts. Email and Reddit were second and third, respectively, most used channels for conversation about the events, with Facebook coming in after that.

Good and bad information amplified. Big time.

Social media is a voice amplifier (and a fast one, too). Everyone was on high alert watching for any information that could be unveiled at any second. Even though at times misinformation spread quickly, social media was a primary force of sending support and help to these communities soon after the news broke. In fact, check out how the Internet sent its support to Jeff Bauman, one of the survivors of the bombing. And grab a tissue box before you do.

Interestingly enough––though not totally unexpected nowadays––we saw a tremendous amount of crowdsourcing from authorities and news outlets on social.

What’s the takeaway here?

There’s one big lesson to learn here: the tools facilitate and amplify, but it’s the user that gives it a voice.