Chile Earthquake on Twitter and Facebook

This weekend was the first time I can remember feeling a gnawing void in communication and a vested burn to get informed about a crisis. Social media came through in the clutch.

I lived and worked in Santiago, Chile as a freelance journalist from June 2008 to August 2009. From Rolando at the corner store, to co-workers at The Santiago Times and Revolver, to my furry housemate Leo (who loved to rummage through the fridge and take craps in the living room), every person I met and relationship I had, contributed to my unforgettable Chilean experience.

You can imagine my distress when I woke up to a text message Saturday morning that read, “Awful news in Chile.”

A rush of faces, worry and possible explanations ran through my head as I jumped out of bed and raced down the stairs to see what was going on. I needed to know what the heck happened and that my friends were safe.

I didn’t turn on the TV. I didn’t turn on the radio. I didn’t call my aunt, who sent the text message.

Without thinking, I opened up my laptop and checked Facebook and Twitter.

Within thirty seconds, I saw that #terremotoenchile was a trending topic on Twitter and read this on Facebook from a friend: “8.5 Earthquake about 345 am. Lasted about 2 minutes. Incredibly shaken up, lots of broken stuff. We are okay. Thanks for all the emails. Will update when possible. Communication is still a hit or miss right now.”

And like that, I was informed.

I rushed to read more posts, check profiles, tweet updates and search for more information. Fortunately, I did not have to go far, and the panic gradually subsided.

  • “All fine over here! My friends and i got through the quake safely. I was dancing to the cure at a local club when it all happened!”
  • “Yo estoy bien Adam! Hablé con [name of friend] también y estamos ok” (Translation: I am ok Adam! I spoke with [name of friend] also and we are ok)
  • “Hi everyone, we are really lucky and no major damage was done to my apartment or my being. I came home last night around 4am…Things started shaking, and I didn’t think anything about it at first, but soon enough we were huddled under the bathroom sink!! Very scary! Thanks for worrying everyone, love you guys, let’s hope everyone else is OK!”
  • “etamos vivos hueooooon!!!!! gracias por la preocupacion!” (Translation: we’re alive dude!!!!! thanks for the worry!)
  • “If someone hears anything from my parents please send me a message.” Followed by this, less than an hour later: “Mom and dad are ok… the house, not too sure.”
  • “if anyone in Chile needs me to phone someone in the UK/mainland Europe, just let me know who and the number.”

After about half an hour of exhausting Facebook, Twitter and Gmail chat, I finally turned on the TV and checked Google news for additional information. (Google News and Google Reader are usually the first two places I go when I log on.)

Aside from a few statistics, it was mostly old news to me. The video and photos added some color to the tragic picture, the weather center offered tsunami predictions and the fluid injured/missing/dead tallies did not shed much light.

So, I kept the TV on for background noise, the Google News tab open in my browser, and went back to social media. CNN, The New York Times and The Guardian may have served well to inform the masses, but my Facebook and Twitter channels provided the instant information I needed from the sources I cared about and trusted.

No newscast, newswire or newspaper could have replaced the tweets, comments and status updates I read on Saturday morning. And that is one of the many reasons why social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are not going anywhere.

If you are trying to contact a person in Chile and haven’t been able to locate him/her, Google is providing this application that could help:

Reading between the lines of @OGOchoCinco

I get about 10 pitches a day offering tips, case-studies and seminars that promise to improve the way I use social media. After I scan the last of the morning’s barrage of tweets, emails and blog-posts, my eyes usually glaze over and turn inward, just in time for lunch.

Self-proclaimed experts do provide valuable nuggets from time to time, but most of the advice from the guru lot is regurgitated redundancy.

So, in efforts to liven up my daily feed and diversify my cabinet of social media advisors, I have turned to Chad Ochocinco, a different kind of guru all together. While he may not be a seasoned public relations professional or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, he can teach you a few things about social media, and make you laugh in the process.

The flamboyant, outspoken and captivating Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver (born Chad Johnson, before legally changing his last name to match a loose Spanish translation of his uniform number: 85) uses an array of social media channels to create that intimate, “my-boy’s-a-superstar reality” for hundreds of thousands of people.

Why should you care about this?

Because, unlike other celebrities who use the new media sparingly and primarily for promotional and commercial purposes, Ochocinco’s all-access, comprehensive and constantly hilarious social-media model provides key values and takeaways that can be translated to anyone’s use of social media.

Be Interesting

“Anybody have anything they want to confess before the new year gets here#handraised-I dated Jennifer Anniston for 2 hours and 34 minutes”posted to Twitter on December 31, 2009 by @OGOchoCinco

The six-time Pro Bowl, three-time All Pro, multimillionaire’s personality makes Rod Tidwell look like Ron Weasley. And even though he does post about mundane day-to-day issues, he makes it interesting and adds value by injecting himself and his attitude into his messages.

Obviously not everybody has his draw or built-in prominence and celebrity, but what you can take away from this is that you need to find that unique, interesting and personal angle on your seemingly mundane messages to make them valuable to your audience. Nobody cares what you had for lunch or that you are on your way to pick up your kids from school, but they will care if you provide something useful like a heads up on traffic, a new recipe or something whacky your kid said.

Be Honest

“Oh hell na, I need ustream right now to discuss me not having a f ing VALENTINE, this is gonna be classic cuz I’m level 5 pissed”posted to Twitter on February 12, 2010 by @OGOchoCinco

One of the many beauties of social media is the natural filtering process that occurs between the audience and the speaker. If a person is not getting any value out of what is being said, they will just stop listening. That kind of selection process gives power to the receiver and puts pressure on the sender. If you are fake, selling something or working towards an agenda, people will usually sniff you out and turn you off.*

So be genuine in conversations, celebrate true accomplishments and, most importantly, embrace and expose your flaws. As scary as this may be to some, you will have more credibility with your audience and receive the same respect in return.

Be Active

“If I break it, you might as well believe it.” — Slogan for OCNN (Ocho Cinco News Network)**

Ochocinco is online almost 24/7. He broadcasts an Internet TV show, tweets all day from @OGOchoCinco, plays video games online (gamer tag Esteban 85), has a massive Facebook fan-base and recently launched OCNN in efforts to eliminate the middleman in mainstream sports media and break sporting news directly from the sources. He responds to fans, courts love interests, complains about NFL policies, calls out other athletes, posts pictures of his family and much, much more.

I am not saying that everybody should tweet as much as @OGOchoCinco or that I’m going to start my own station. I am saying that we all need to experiment with various forms of social media and maintain a constant and appropriate presence on the channels that we deem valuable.

Chad Ochocinco may never keynote a social-media seminar or dissect his tactics for the public, but the next best thing for anybody looking to get more out of their social media efforts is to filter the feed from the “certified” experts and start reading between the lines of OchoCinco.

Who’s your off-the-beaten-path social-media advisor? How do you filter your feed?

Find Chad Ochocinco on:

*Copy Chat expands on this concept in a nice post
**Source: Mashable

Literary Dendrology: Feed your writing tree

Are you a writer?

Think about the question before you answer it. Yes? No? Kinda?

Most professional or former journalists, authors, poets, communicators and all those in between, respond with a brisk and emphatic “yes.” They roll their eyes at the audacity of such an indictment, contemplating whether they have time to keep reading this post.

People in other trades either say “no” because they don’t write for a living, or “kinda” when they remember the creative writing class they took in college, the journal they kept while backpacking through Europe or the mommy blog they just launched.

Whatever category you fall into, “Yes,” “No” or “Kinda,” you’re more of a writer than you think, and thus, very much a writer.* Unfortunately, this often gets overlooked.

Many motivated individuals get consumed by their careers. It’s not necessarily a bad thing and usually comes with the territory of having a strong work ethic and a drive to succeed. That being said, don’t forget about your writing at work. How do you come off in emails? What kind of thought do you put into post-it notes stuck to co-worker’s desks, birthday-card signatures or text messages? Are they conveying the messages you want? Your writing represents you, so make sure it’s acting appropriately on your behalf.

While your day job brings home the bacon, your extracurricular activities set the table.

A ton of valuable writing takes place outside of the workplace and gets lost in the shuffle. For example, when I was a full-time journalist, I struggled to keep a personal journal, write funny letters to friends or maintain a steady stream of posts on my travel blog. After agonizing over a story, hunched in front of a laptop all day, the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was spend the next 30 minutes blogging or scribbling in my journal. As a result my news- and feature-story writing grew stronger, while my creative and familiar writing weakened.

We, as writers (of every kind), need to exercise, embrace and most importantly, exhaust every channel. Staying up all night, skipping lunches and ignoring personal hygiene to complete a project, prepare a presentation or finish a story is commendable, but it’s what you do when you’re done that makes the difference. Feed that writing need with another hundred words instead of sedating it with a break on the couch.

Assign a goal, direction and priority to each of your writing avenues. Take 15 minutes to let loose and vent in your journal every day. Start a weekly blog for your small business to keep clients informed and up-to-date. Keep in touch with long-distance friends through annual letters. Every word you write affects every other word you write and the sooner you nourish all the branches, the stronger the tree will be.

“You always have to realize you are constantly in a state of becoming.” – Bob Dylan

So when a new writing opportunity presents itself, treat it as you would any other branch on the tree. These days, you can’t go an hour without coming across some reference to social media. Dig into it. How strong and effective are your tweets? Are you getting what you want from your Facebook status updates? Do you speak leet? WordPress says, “CODE IS POETRY.” What kind of poems do you write? These new branches might grow to produce fruit or whither and get pruned, either way, you’ve got to give them a chance.

Angelo Pierattini, one of my favorite Chilean musicians, told me “I want…to never be content with where I am. I always want to have the drive to create something new.” Words to live by, but easier said than done.

For example, my home “office” (pretty much a desk and a chair in an otherwise empty spare bedroom) grew stale after a few months of use. I began to avoid it because it equaled work for me. So now, when I set up my laptop to grind away at home, I make a concerted effort to change rooms. For the past few weeks, all my notes were laid out on the kitchen table. This week I’ve taken over the living room couch and coffee table. Next week it’s probably back up to the spare bedroom or maybe the balcony. How do you keep things fresh when it’s so easy to get comfortable and settle into a routine?

Trees, like people, have various sizes, shapes, colors and lifespans. You may have a perfectly-manicured bonsai, a newborn ficus or a sprawling cyprus. But whatever kind of writing tree you’ve got, the fact remains that it needs constant attention. So, care for every branch, give it fresh water daily and expose it to plenty of sunlight. Then, watch it grow.

How healthy is your writing tree?

*Not everyone agrees with this notion.