In the wake of Tuesday’s devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, much of what people around the world are learning is coming from social media sources, according to The Nielsen Company.
Preliminary analysis of data shows that Twitter posts (“micro-blogs”) are the leading source of discussion about the quake, followed by online video, blogs and other online boards/forums. While most online consumers rely on traditional media for coverage of the quake, they are turning to Twitter and blogs to share information, react to the situation and rally support. The Twitter account for the Red Cross, which on average, had been adding roughly 50-100 followers a day before the quake, has gained more than 10K followers since. Currently, blog posts about Haiti’s quake also make up nearly 3% of all blog posts at Nielsen’s BlogPulse.com search engine.
The substantial and rapid growth of online discussions mirrors that of the Swine Flu/H1N1 epidemic. However, in contrast with the H1N1 blog activity, online discussions around the Haiti quake picked up immediately on Tuesday when news began to spread and remains high. In the two days since the quake, news stories featuring the disaster have dominated those cited by bloggers. On Thursday, January 13th, six of the top 10 news stories focused on the earthquake, as people used social media to spread information from traditional news sources.
As organizations begin to put together relief efforts and aid, many have tapped into the large mobile universe that text messages – 136.6 million subscribers sent and received text messages in Q3 2009 – to spread the word and gather donations. As online conversations around the Red Cross's 90999 text campaign efforts grew, the Red Cross tweeted Friday morning that donations exceeded $8 million.