How Social Media Saved Lives

On September 19, 2017, disaster struck central Mexico. A mere eleven days after a magnitude 8.1 earthquake off the southern coast, a magnitude 7.1 “extensional” earthquake shook central Mexico, including the capital of Mexico City. As of October 12, there have been at least 356 fatalities.

Social media quickly took a leading role in the immediate recovery efforts. Victims took to Twitter to ask for help, and volunteers tweeted their availability. Human kindness was on full display, but without coordination how could volunteers be sure their efforts were going to the right places? Chaos was the rule. What was needed was a central headquarters where volunteers and victims alike could go to solicit or to give help.

Luis Perez and Gabriel Rios helped create the initiative ComoAyudarMX ("How to Help Mexico") for just this purpose. “Lots of people wanted to help or needed help,” Luis says. “There were other initiatives, but at the moment of the disaster, there was a lot of disorganized information, mainly on the social networks. One of the biggest challenges was to avoid fake news. We wanted to connect people in order to place the help where it really needed to be.”

Luis and his team turned to TwineSocial. “We were looking for a quick way to display all the information posted on the Twitter account @comoayudarmx. We wanted to have all the information categorized in real time because of the urgency of the situation.” Armed with Twine's Real-Time Updates, the ComoAyudarMX team went to work on their mission of mercy. But they didn’t stop there.

The team created a battery of unique hashtags to be used by victims and volunteers to not only find where aid was most needed, but find what aid was needed. With resources in critically short supply, creating this hashtag system was one of the central contributions of the ComoAyudar team.

“A group of volunteers processed all the tweets that mentioned the account requesting or offering supplies or help. This was done by a system created by the community based on Twitter hashtags. For example, #autosamigos was used by people requesting or offering car transportation. Individuals or groups looking to help (or posts looking for volunteers) used the hashtag #voluntarixs. All this information was published on the Twitter account but we were looking a way to categorize these posts.”

Now that the community was using these hashtags, ComoAyudar harnessed the TwineSocial Rules Engine to put this content to work. With Twine's Rules Engine pumping social content into hashtag-specific Collections as fast as it was posted, volunteers had a one-stop location for coordinating their relief efforts. Good Samaritans with a car looked at the #autosamigos Collection, those with a handyman skillset scrutinized the #necesitamos or #necesito Collections, and many simply offering willing hands found work in the #voluntarixs Collection.

Though it’s been weeks since the tragic earthquake, it’s important to remember that the recovery has only just started. Luis says one of the easiest ways to donate is through the Mexican Red Cross or one of the many initiatives started by Mexican actors.

Luis, Gabriel and the ComoAyudar team can be proud of what they did for their friends and neighbors after the crisis. Luis and Gabriel say TwineSocial was an integral part of that success. “The TwineSocial platform has helped us a lot by concentrating the tweets published by @comoayudarmx and organizing the posts by hashtags,” Luis says. “It was really easy to get the configuration done. But what really helped us was that when we contacted the support team and explained what we were trying to achieve. They immediately enabled the Real-Time Updates for the Campaign for as long as we needed it. That was a great gesture from them.”

It was an honor to be a part of it, Luis. Hats off to you and the ComoAyudarMX team, and our thoughts and prayers are with the people of central Mexico.

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