The day of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, I started manning social media the second I woke up. By the time I got to the office I had a good handle on the top people and hashtags to follow for earthquake information. So, when we decided to launch a live blog for our coverage, I was well-placed to contribute from the social media side.
Throughout that day I provided rolling updates with all sorts of information and multimedia sourced from Twitter and other social media. I was even able to get VOA’s first interview with someone on the ground, thanks to the contacts I had formed throughout the day.
You’ll see in our live blog archive a variety of photos, videos, blog updates, and other information and accounts found all over the internet that shed light on what had happened and how, and how it was affecting people in Japan.
I continued this work throughout the weekend, providing the latest information and firsthand account to our news writers. Some of this I ended up also including in a special report page about the earthquake. I also appeared one our Asia radio show to discuss the nuanced ways in which social media was used to spread information within Japan in the aftermath (and it was nuanced – the sheer number and specificity of hashtags that emerged was astonishing).
I should point out, in all fairness, I was not VOA’s social media star when it came to the situation in Japan. Our Korea-based correspondent, Steve Herman, was already an avid tweeter, but when the earthquake hit he went into overdrive. Between his amazing reporting and his constant tweeting, he became a bona fide social media celebrity.
When I train people on Twitter, inevitably the savvier ones ask how they can game hashtags or @mentions to gain followers. Steve is the definitive example that all the tricks and shortcuts in the world are no substitute for good, old-fashioned quality.