Sometimes, there are no words. I have nothing to offer in this space that hasn’t already been stated far more eloquently by others regarding this past week. Boston became the epicenter of a national tragedy. This time it wasn’t strangers in the headlines. It was our town. Our neighbors. Our kids.
Social media wasn’t – and shouldn’t be – the first thing on many minds during such a time. However, social quickly emerged as the go-to vehicle delivering news to friends about runners and spectators, provided messages of reassurance for out-of-state families and, later, established a point to rally for support and fundraising. Social media became both a blessing and a curse – it quickly shared breaking news across the country and was responsible for the instantaneous dissemination of misinformation. (BC’s in house social media guru Prof. Jerry Kane has weighed in on what social managers can learn from the bombing.)
Like many colleges and universities in Boston, BC utilized email, text and social to get emergency notifications out about the manhunt and ‘shelter in place‘ order on Friday. BC’s Emergency Response Team issued several updates throughout the day. One need only scroll down through the week’s posts on Facebook or Twitter to replay the fear, anxiety, sorrow and then, relief and even jubilation over the five days. The content on Facebook reached more than 835,000 people during that time.
Departments across campus did a wonderful job sharing and re-broadcasting the emergency messages. For that, we thank you. In such a heightened state, it is important and necessary to have us all speaking with one voice on behalf of the University.
Departments also utilized social tools in unique ways: on the day of the bombing, The Campus School used social as a means to help account for its 300+ runners during the chaos. Through Facebook, Twitter, Google docs, texts and phone calls all our students were quickly accounted for. A bright spot over the past week has been the work being done on the BC Office of Graduate Student Life Facebook page – updates on Brittany and Liza, Red Cross blood drives and much-needed comic relief via OGSL’s signature memes provide information to fans in a thoughtful way.
Outside BC, anyone who wasn’t following the Boston Police Facebook or Twitter page should look back over the past week. Both as a resident of Greater Boston and a social media manager, it was amazing to see an organization operating a social channel so effectively. The Patrick and Jess Run Again page – dedicated to BC 2005 alum Patrick Downes and his wife, Jessica who were severely injured during the bombing – is a masterful example of the power of video and incorporating YouTube and Facebook. (And great work by SMC member David Ayers from Student Services and the BC Jesuits who sent in videos.)
(If you would like further reading on responding during a crisis – take a look at Kelsey Follett’s practical advice on How (not) to use social, and brand management strategies from Patrick Coffee from PRNewser.)
In the days following the bombing, BC News & Public Affairs staffer Michael Maloney designed this “For Boston” logo that we used on our channels. The image was liked, shared, retweeted and repined over 250,000 times. People and many of our departments changed their profile picture, adopting this image as their own. It had a unifying effect, a virtual show of solidarity, but a scope we didn’t entirely anticipate. We should have.
When I first saw Michael’s design it spoke to exactly what so many are feeling: some of us are from Boston. Others, of Boston. This past week has shown that our state, the country, and even the world – for a time at least – we were all “For Boston.”