Ain’t Nobody Got Time for a Thesis… (Or Micro-Blogging for Humanitarian Organizations)

Natural disasters, wars, famine, hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes and dying malnourished children… Admittedly, these are really bad for the human soul, and aren’t the typical news items that we want to read about. However, these are important events that affect all humanity, because when one human being suffers, even if no one else realises it, the dignity of the rest of humanity is eroded. So how do we strike a balance between raising public awareness and funds AND advocacy work AND inspiring action BUT not being too judgmental, too in-your-face, too maudlin, too aggressively guilt-tripping?

The answer could be found in micro-blogging! It comes in small doses, which may be enough to inspire action, timely enough to be relevant and keep an issue top-of-mind, informative enough for advocacy, and yet bite-sized enough to not turn people away from information or images that are too violent or disturbing.

A review of 3 twitter accounts show mixed strategies. UNOCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs); MSF (Medicins San Frontieres, an organisation that provides healthcare in conflict settings around the world), and the American Red Cross all have their own twitter feeds, where they aim to inform, inspire action and advocate for their respective causes.

In addition to their respective feeds, using their hashtags may also allow coordination of activities, and the accummulation of information from various sources, including citizen journalism.

There is an added advantage though.. A sense of humour on Twitter may also show the human aspect of an aid organisation: A rogue tweet by American Red Cross’ social media coordinator was taken down after 1 hour, but not before it was retweeted:

Instead of being defensive, American Red Cross took a humorous approach, and tweeted this:

It became a hit, and Dogfish even gave free beers to those who could prove they had donated money or blood to American Red Cross. This is a good way to connect with the public on a more human level, instead of just being a “platform for bad news”.

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