Social Media in a Tragedy: Flooding at The Lake Superior Zoo

A slew of springtime storms have brought inches upon inches of rain to the area surrounding Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota over the last couple days. Because of this rain, the entire area is experiencing severe flooding – people’s homes are being flooded; streets, sidewalks, and bridges are being washed out; cars are stranded in streets and parking lots…

…and one of the greatest tragedies is that the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, MN lost many animals due to flooding in zoo itself.

The last reports are that all but one of the animals in the zoo’s “barn yard” drowned because of the flooding, and two bird enclosures were under water. In addition to this, one of the zoo’s polar bears was able to escape its habitat (though it was rescued), and the zoo’s seal escaped its habitat as well, and also the zoo itself!

Both animals were rescued safely, and are now home at the zoo. However, the news spread quickly, and social media took over.

@DuluthZooSeal and @DuluthPolarBear both popped up on Twitter this morning, talking to everyone talking about the flood. Radio stations, news organizations and residents of the area received replies from the seal and the polar bear in quick, short, Twitter fashion. And while we’ve seen this type of thing happen before (with the @BronxZoosCobra account blowing up in popularity when it was lost last year), these two Twitter accounts are using their social media popularity to help in this tragedy.

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Graded Tweeting?

I suppose it could be said that every tweet is essentially “graded.” From businesses to individuals, the audience who views the tweet will respond in a certain way, and that response determines the user’s overall relevance and authority. That makes sense to me as a marketer and social media fan.

What really piqued my interest last week is the fact that my friend is currently being graded for tweeting for a class. He’s finishing up his Journalism degree at ASU, and for his Online Media class, one of their requirements is an active Twitter account. And in order for the professor to monitor the account, the class is required to tweet with a certain hashtag.

While I fully understand that it’s important for students to learn and understand new types of media and news distribution, and I appreciate the professor’s use of the hashtag as a search function, I’m troubled by the fact that he is reducing the act of tweeting to a simple state in order to give a grade.

To me, engaging in Twitter and other social media sites means understanding your audience and engaging with them as is appropriate. It isn’t about posting a certain number of posts and washing your hands of the whole network. Social media as a whole is ever-changing, and in order to stay on top of all those changes, a user needs to be more involved than, say, by just using Twitter in order to pass a class.

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Twitter celebrities and their impact on search

Read the original post published on the iCrossing Great Finds Blog on May 6, 2011.

Last month, I wrote a post on how businesses can look to Twitter celebrities as positive role models for improving their social media practices. These celebrities are shining on Twitter in an honest, connected, communicative way and all business professionals can learn a thing or two about social networking from following them.

But what about the impact these celebrities can have on search engine marketing? How can their viewpoints affect search rankings, referrals and on-going traffic? Or do they not have an impact at all?

Working in search engine optimization, I’m always looking for a way to integrate search and social for the greater benefit. And an integrated campaign can have a greater overall benefit to your marketing program. Even the search engines are moving toward a social future, proving that integrating all aspects of online and offline marketing can have a greater impact.

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