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United We Tweet

NMC Account Assistant, Erika Bush

“Maine Olympian Joan Benoit Samuelson is running in today’s Boston Marathon, marking the 30th anniversary of her record-breaking win in 1983…” plays on the local radio station on my drive into work.

Marathon Monday!

I joked with my Mom on the ride in about Maine and Massachusetts having their own holiday, and later in the office explained why Patriot’s Day is a big deal—reminiscing on the reenactments of the Battles of Lexington and Concord that I attended as a kid each April vacation.

Being the huge fan of social media that I am, I kept dibs on the marathon via Twitter most of the day and I was happy to hear that Samuelson had finished the marathon within 30 minutes of her original pace—newsworthy, I thought. However, we all know how the day ended.

The marathon bombings in Boston on Monday marked the first incident of their kind in the new age of social media and exemplified the crucial role social media plays in a time of crisis.

Breaking news and support were expressed using the #BostonMarathon and #PrayForBoston hash-tags.

Twitter stole the show, breaking the news to me when a single Tweet, “Explosion at the finish line rocks the Boston Marathon,” appeared in my stream. Then on Facebook, our local news affiliate posted a similar status update as a developing story.

Within minutes a hashtag had been created, #bostonmarathon, for people to track the latest updates, and reporters began using it as a way to rebuke false stories and to give the public news as it happened. Within 30 minutes, support began pouring in from around the country and world using #prayforboston.

In the midst of the chaos PR professionals and various CEOs suggested that any prescheduled Tweets be canceled, and that the focus should be on the victims and their families. No more business for the remainder of the day.

Former Bostonians and other influencers reached out with messages of support.

Meanwhile, Google simultaneously launched Google Person Finder for the Boston Marathon while the Red Cross promoted their Safe and Well site to help reunite and connect family members to marathon participants.

Newscasters everywhere began to ask people to not call each other, but rather to text, update a Facebook status or even Tweet their loved ones to let them know they were OK. Law enforcement also embraced social media, asking for people to send any and all images they had from the finish line via text, Facebook and Tweet as a way to gather evidence.

Within a few hours Twitter began to fill with nods to random acts of kindness. Bostonians were offering meals to runners and opening their homes to strangers, and humanity was shown through posts using the #bostonhelp hashtag. Restaurants offered free meals and hotels offered free stays—Brooklyn Academy of Music displayed their love for Boston, projecting a Martin Luther King quote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that,” on the side of a campus building.

Looking for a place to crash? Hungry? #bostonhelp is a great resource.

This support continued well into Tuesday when the Chicago Tribune posted an advertisement bringing the two cities together; various states also showed their support by creating banners and images to convey a united front of love and support for the Boston community.

Even the longstanding rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees ceased to exist when the Yankees announced via Twitter that they had put up a sign on their stadium stating, “United We Stand,” with the Yankees and Red Sox emblem on either side. They continued to honor Boston on Tuesday night with a moment of silence, and by playing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” at the end of the third, a treasured tradition at Fenway Park.

While the whole story is still unknown, and many of the details are still developing, the message is clear—social media connects us all. Twitter was a shining star in light of Monday’s horrific events, and three hashtags were able to provide information and support to a city and country in need.

Contributed by Erika Bush

 

 

All of us at Nancy Marshall Communications are profoundly saddened by tragedy that took place on Monday. Our hearts go out to the families of those whose lives were lost, as well as those whose bodies were maimed and injured. We are in awe of the way city officials, residents and visitors came together to support one another, especially emergency and medical personnel. As much as an event like this is unimaginably horrible, it also brings out the best of our collective humanity in its aftermath. May this kind of senseless violence and tragedy never happen again.

—Nancy Marshall, Principal, Nancy Marshall Communications

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