By Mandy Saffer
It’s no surprise that people turn to their smart phones to catch up on the latest new stories, look up movie times, check the score of the game and connect with their friends and family through social media outlets. Americans are glued to their smartphones on a daily basis and when Hurricane Sandy struck, people were more attached to their phones than ever.
When the power went out, people had no other way of communicating with loved ones or seeing the latest developments of the storm unfold on TV. With just their phones and apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, they found a way to stay connected and up to date.
Twitter is one of the most popular news sources as of late and the social media platform was a go-to source during Hurricane Sandy. According to Mashable, it was reported that more than 20 million tweets were sent between Saturday, October 27 and Thursday, November 1 that contained the words “Sandy” and “hurricane,” as well as the hashtags #sandy and #hurricane.
People sent more than 20 million Tweets about the storm between Oct 27 & Nov 1. Terms tracked: "sandy", "hurricane", #sandy, #hurricane. — Twitter (@twitter) November 2, 2012
This article also states that when the storm hit New York City on Monday, October 29, an astonishing 20% of all searches on Twitter were storm-related.
On Monday, Oct 29, as people turned to Twitter to search for info, search queries related to Sandy peaked at 20% of total search queries. — Twitter (@twitter) November 2, 2012
Twitter Becomes An Essential Source During #HurricaneSandy
New Jersey was one of the most hard-hit areas in the Northeast, affecting many people. Major power outages across the state caused businesses, gas stations, restaurants and more to close. How were people who were without power going to check to see if their local grocery store, coffee shop or convenience stores were open? Just a few years ago, this could only be achieved by word of mouth.
But with Twitter, it was never easier. The Twitter account @njdotcom, the handle for the www.nj.com news site, created and promoted hashtags to help New Jerseyians inform one another of the good and bad from the storm. Here are four of the most important hashtags used before, during, and after the storm.
#njsandy: this hashtag was used when writing about all things relating to Sandy and New Jersey. From wishing that everyone in #njsandy’s way was doing fine to tracking the storm, this hashtag was used to connect everyone in New Jersey to relevant and vital information about the storm.
#njgas: this was a critical hashtag in the aftermath of Sandy. Since New Jersey experienced a plethora of power outages, many gas stations were without electricity and therefore couldn’t pump gas. With households powerless, many opted for generators, causing a statewide demand for gasoline. This hashtag helped tell New Jerseyans which stations were open, where the shortest lines were, and helped to solve the confusion of the gas rationing that was implemented.
Check out #njgas for updates on gas. Use that tag to send updates too. — NJ.com (@njdotcom) November 2, 2012
#njopen: this alerted people which businesses had power and were open to the public. Many of these tweets had messages saying business were open and offering their space to those who needed heat and power.
#njpower: this was another key hashtag that helped keep track of the power situation throughout the state. Users and news outlets used this hashtag to inform residents where power outages were reported and gave areas updates as to when they could expect their power to come back.
We continue to get a lot of power questions. Use #njpower hash tag to report on situations to help others get info nj-ne.ws/YeaAT4 — NJ.com (@njdotcom) November 3, 2012
Twitter To The Rescue
Aside from hashtags there were many forms of Twitter accounts that devoted their tweets to the storm. Those who live in the areas hit used their personal accounts to read the news, get in touch with friends, and help spread the word of what was going on in their area. And of course parody accounts were created; when searching for the term “Hurricane Sandy,” seven accounts are found that have the name Hurricane Sandy.
New Jersey’s own Governor Christie took to Twitter to keep the state up to date with information from his press conferences as well as other news updates and information. He did a great job informing people of current weather conditions, hazards throughout the state and keeping spirits up for those who needed it most.
To the people of New Jersey, we are working every waking hour to get through this as soon as possible. #Sandy — Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 30, 2012
My first job is to get your life back to normal as much as it can be. As quickly as possible. #Sandy — Governor Christie (@GovChristie) November 2, 2012
Sandy truly showcased the power of Twitter as a news source in a time of need. We predict that in the future, Twitter will only become even more relevant during crises.
Are you a fan of getting your news from Twitter? We want to know your thoughts!