What Can Managers Learn about Social Media from the Boston Marathon Bombing?

Many communities helped authorities apprehend the Boston Marathon bombers and update the broader public about related events. This raw exhibition of the power of social media offers lessons to managers about how to use social tools.

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Social business research and more recent thought leadership explore the challenges and opportunities presented by social media.
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Last week witnessed a series of surreal events in the city of Boston, with the Marathon bombings and the subsequent identification and apprehension of the suspects.

Now that the crisis and chaos of the bombings and the hunt for the suspects have passed, we can reflect on the events and what we might learn from them. While reflections upon life, family, community, and country are certainly paramount, we also saw social media playing a critical role. What can managers learn about social media from these events?

Recognize what is possible for your organization

Scholars have noted that a key feature of social media is its ability to facilitate group action. Rarely has that application been seen with greater clarity than through the events of last week. People of our community, many of whom knew nothing of one another prior to the events, organized at a moment’s notice to mobilize information and resources to those in need. What would have previously required professional or governmental organizations days or weeks to accomplish was improvised in real time without formal coordination as people connected and collaborated using social media platforms.

As cell phone service jammed from overuse, people turned to Facebook to let their friends and family know they were safe. As the major news organizations scrambled to understand the events and its details, Twitter rapidly aggregated information and images from everyday people at the scenes of the various events. People organized and synthesized information relevant to groups and communities through Google Docs, such as reporting people’s safety and coordinating lodging for those who were displaced by the bombings.

Managers should consider the events of this past week as a wakeup call in terms of organizational communication and collaboration. If thousands of unrelated people can organize on a moment’s notice and execute sophisticated group action without lengthy meetings, conference calls, and endless email threads, why can’t your organization?

In my own use, I found that different platforms were suited for very different purposes: Twitter was better for tracking rapidly changing events, while Facebook was better for care and support.

The events of this past week should lead managers to realize that there are many different — and often more effective — ways for people to collaborate than is currently the norm in most organizations.

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Topics

Social Business

Social business research and more recent thought leadership explore the challenges and opportunities presented by social media.
More in this series

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