Tapping Social Media During Times of Crisis: Japan

As everyone across the world wakes up to the devastating news of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami hitting the east coast of Japan, support and condolences for Japan have been overwhelming. While this is not surprising, what may be is that a majority of these condolences are happening through the use of social media. According to data, 8 out of 10 trending topics in the US are related to Japan as well as 7 out of 10 trending topics worldwide. Common hashtags include #prayforjapan, #tsunami, Text REDCROSS and even #hurricanekatrina. In the wake of today's events, many are recalling the 2005 disaster of Hurricane Katrina that hit the southeast coast of the U.S. News sources are flooding social media sites. The U.S.'s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) tweeted "@fema: Get #tsunami preparedness tips on your smartphone http://m.fema.gov & pls cont to listen to local officials." The New York Times is one among all news sources tweeting ways to stay up-to-date on the disaster @nytimes: http://nyti.ms/fnHBCN.

Celebrities are also amongst many tweeting support for Japan after the earthquake including actress and humanitarian Alyssa Milano (@alyssa_milano) and television host Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) who is there live-tweeting from from French Polynesia.

Social media is proving it's a powerful tool in the face of natural disasters. Early warnings were sent out to people living in countries as far as Peru and --- as well as Hawaii for aftershocks. In addition to the Red Cross empowering those who want to help, Google reacted to the Japanese tsunami with a Person Finder Tool.

Today's event was tragic. Times like these make me thankful for social media in allowing me quick and real-time ways to keep on the events and be able help.

If you would like to help, you can do so by texting the Red Cross 90999 to donate $10.00, visiting www.redcross.org, or by calling 1-800-redcross. You can also follow the Redcross on Twitter @redcross.