For many in the U.S., Hurricane Dorian has been a major disruption. For many in the Bahamas, it’s been devastation and destruction – ruining communities and lives.
This is where social media rises and can be used to its best advantage.
Bradford Marine, a client of mine, is located in both Fort Lauderdale and Freeport, so Hurricane Dorian’s massive destruction was personal for them – with many of their employees’ lives in danger. Like many in the marine industry, they took the threat of the hurricane seriously and worked for days in advance, preparing themselves and their customers (boat owners, captains, and crew) for the oncoming threat.
While most of Florida was spared the full destruction of Dorian, parts of the Bahamas were not. The storm not only hit full force, it stopped and sat for hours in one place, with the wind and water doing its worst to level communities.
The Triton, a publication for captains and crew in the marine and yachting industry, posted this article about the storm hitting the islands, using an image from Michael Kelly, one Bradford’s owners, sent to him by an employee at the Freeport location. It’s a mind-boggling image showing how high the water was coming up on land, trapping people in their homes and other shelters where they’d sought refuge from the category 5 hurricane’s 160 mile-per-hour winds and rain.
Once Dorian finally moved on, Bradford Marine sprang to work. The Fort Lauderdale-based marina worked to do everything possible for its’ Freeport employees, as well as others in the community. They came up with the idea of a fundraiser, to request money and materials as quickly as possible. Because of this quick action, they were the first in area to provide an outlet for people to help. And they posted on all their social media channels, to create the greatest outreach possible. Here’s what the post looked like:
Again, because they were “the first,” the reaction was tremendous. People wanted to help, so not only did they plan to come, and bring carloads of donations, they shared – 191 people posted this on their personal pages.
This was the single, most impactful activity they could do – and it broadened the overall reach of the campaign to almost 16,000 people. Because of their tremendous reach, Bradford received raffle items to generate more funds, sponsored by companies that wanted to help as best they could.
The result? By the end of Thursday, September 5th, hundreds of people had come to Bradford to donate pallets of goods, and donations mounted, to purchase even more necessary items. And they sped off to Freeport. As reported in The Triton: “More than 500 yacht captains, crew and marine industry professionals bought raffle tickets to support the event, and the Marine Industries Association of South Florida presented a check for $2,500 for the effort. All told, the event raised more than $7,500…”
Why the great success? There were a number of factors, including speed and agility on the part of Bradford’s staff. In addition, there was the trust factor. As one patron said, “We know that if we donate to you, it will get there. You have the transportation and the docking location – it won’t just sit on a dock somewhere.” This gives voice to the disappointment many felt who donated to help Puerto Rico, only to learn that their donations languished on the docks or in port, never reaching the people they were sent to help.
On September 7th, two days after the fundraiser, The Triton published a great follow-up story of how various local organizations worked together to deliver 59 tons of supplies. And the staff at Bradford continued to engage online and thank people for their generosity. Over 2,500 people reacted to this post by clicking, liking, or sharing.
This is a great example of how social media can be used as what I would call a “force for good.” It’s a great way to unite people, help them to move and act quickly. Yes, social media can be used for many other marketing purposes – we marketers do it all the time. But remember, it’s also perfect for times of crisis when human instinct, at its best, longs to help. Social media can point people in the direction to be most effective and helpful.