How To Use Social Media To Respond To A Tragedy

It may not always happen in your town, but all too often it happens somewhere. Across the country, somewhere on the map, tragedy frequently strikes. Sometimes it’s a natural disaster. Other times it might be a beloved young member of the community who has been felled by a disease.

These tragedies can hit communities hard because they have a way of affecting everyone, whether you’re reading about it online or hearing it from a neighbor.

But over the years, I’ve learned that business owners no longer have to wring their hands and wish they could do something to help their community. If you want to make a difference, technology affords you unique tools you can use to make a positive impact. And while you may not be able to save the world and help people 24/7 — I do realize you run a company and not a nonprofit — a little initiative with the aid of technology can go a long way to help people.

Especially if you harness the use of social media.

It Wasn’t Always This Easy

Cultivating Goodwill In Your Community 

There’s something about helping people that just makes you feel good. I experienced it every time I helped anyone as an Army medic, and I’ve experienced it as a business owner. And I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back. I’m just trying to show business owners, as my father showed me, that we have a lot of tools we can use to do something good in this world, beyond making a profit.

It may not always be obvious what those tools are, but when people are in need, chances are you’ve got something that can be useful. Restaurants often give food when people are in dire straits. I remember hearing of a flashlight manufacturer that donated flashlights for search-and-rescue operations after 9/11.

In any case, when you do good for your community, two things happen, and they both happen to be jet fuel for your business. One, you’ll simply feel good about yourself, which everyone knows helps you run a business better. Two, doing good for the community is a good way to foster goodwill in the community. Maybe it’ll help you land more customers and maybe not, but it certainly won’t hurt your business.

How Social Media Can Help You Help Others

Social media makes it easier than ever to help others, even if it’s just to spread the word about a worthy cause or to generate interest in fundraising for someone who needs help. For instance, a few weeks before Hurrican Irma, Hurricane Harvey made a house call on Houston. Well, after talking to my team at Our Town America, we decided we should host two separate Facebook fundraisers — one for Tampa, where we’re headquartered, and one in Houston.

The Houston fundraiser brought in over $3,000 in donations, which we gave to Houston-based Shipley Do-Nuts owner Mike Simon, a client of our Houston franchisee. His business was flooded, and once it dried out, there was structural damage. But what I found so gratifying and inspiring when I called Mr. Simon to tell him the news was the fact that I could tell he was overcome with emotion. But he didn’t use the money for himself. He gave it to a loyal employee and single mother of two, Lucia Flores, who had lost her home and possessions during Hurricane Harvey.

Our fundraiser in Florida was slightly less successful in terms of the monetary value (we raised approximately $2,000), but we were able to split the money and give $500 each to four Florida businesses in Tampa and Fort Myers that lost a combined $40,000 in spoiled food and potential revenue.

Back in the 1990s, before Facebook and Twitter, Hurricane Andrew slammed South Florida. My father, Michael Plummer, Sr., spread the word to his neighbors that if they needed shelter in his sturdy office building, they were welcome. Word got out, and some people took cover. Not as many as we wanted, of course, because word of mouth can only spread so far.

Last year, when Hurricane Irma came into town, inspired by late father’s generosity, I did the same thing by inviting people to use our Tampa headquarters as an area of shelter. Thankfully, dozens of more folks showed up because communication has improved so much over the past few decades.