After incessant rainfall over the weekend, Penang experienced the most devastating flood recorded in Penang’s history, leaving seven dead and over 5,800 evacuated at the time of writing. In a splendid show of solidarity, people from all over Malaysia have been mobilised to provide assistance, and flood relief efforts have been coordinated by various parties in order to help those in need. These initiatives have been expedited through social media, as many generous users have leveraged on their social media platforms to rally Malaysians together for a good cause – proving not only that social media is an effective marketing tool, but also that it stands true to what it is called; “social”, meaning of people and of society. As proud ambassadors of social media, we at SOCiETY have listed the top 5 ways social media has been used to help victims of the #penangflood:
Using Facebook Events, a non-governmental organisation called the Make it Right Movement (MIRM) joined forces with Brickfields Asia College to organise a flood relief campaign, asking for members of the public to donate essential items, dry rations, or in the form of cash and kind. Subsequently, MIRM managed to (so far) amass over a hundred responses and shares from kind-hearted users who wish to lend a helping hand to their neighbours in Penang. One user, Fazlynn Azrul Raj even went to the extent of obtaining insights from the Penang Chief Minister’s legal office at the time of the donation drive – in order to help the organisers prioritise what was needed more urgently. She then posted these insights onto the event page, providing the organisers insider information to what was otherwise inaccessible to them before.
Facebook Crisis Response
One of Facebook’s most talked-about features as of late is called “Safety Check”, which is activated when a certain number of people post about a particular incident – be it a flood, typhoon, or even earthquake. It details when and where an incident has occurred, and even basic, up-to-date information about it, provided by an independent global crisis reporting agency called NC4. This feature allows users to check if their friends and loved ones who are in the affected areas are safe by using the “Ask if Safe” option.
It also doubles as a Crisis Response centre, a single platform to bring different relief efforts together. Through this, users are able to utilise the “support” function to offer aid to those affected. Facebook even allows users to receive notifications on posts requesting for help by turning on notifications for “Posts requesting help” and “Posts offering help”, so that users are able to keep abreast of the places that require the most assistance. Many users reported that they received push notifications from their friends who marked themselves as safe, allowing them to “ask if safe” if they did not receive any notifications from those near the areas affected, giving them a sense of security – knowing that their friends were contactable.
Most commonly used as a news centre, users can access the “Latest Conversations” section on Facebook by typing the term “Penang flood” in the search bar. This feature serves as a feed containing all public conversations surrounding a particular topic, allowing users to get first-hand accounts of the incident at the tips of their fingers. Similar to this is the “articles” feature within the same page, which, in essence, is a repository of news articles, a convenient tool for users who wish to obtain credible information about the flood. With over 15 thousand people talking about the issue, this feature helps shed light on what is happening on the inside, and brings awareness to people outside of Penang, making information readily available at the tip of our fingertips.
The #penangflood hashtag on Instagram has garnered 380 posts so far, containing different types of user-generated content about the floods, from chronicling of different stages of the floods at various areas in Penang, to calls for prayers and help for the victims affected. Similar to Facebook, these hashtags have also been used to coordinate flood relief efforts, and it features public photos as well as Instagram stories from those who have used the hashtag in their updates. Other variants of the hashtag, such as #penangfloodrelief have also been used by users who want to stay in the know about the current situation. A quick check performed shows that most of the posts with the hashtag are positive messages, sending strength and prayers to victims.
Social media influencers
Social media influencers, or key opinion leaders (KOLs) have not been left out of the conversation. In fact, many are using their influence to mobilise volunteer and donation efforts by posting on their feed and/or using the relevant hashtags. For instance, a popular local chef named Chef Zam made a plea to over 80 thousand of his Instagram followers to contribute to the Penang Emergency Flood Fund on behalf of the Food Aid Foundation, prompting many other influencers to follow suit and speak up on behalf of those affected.
The advent of social media has served as a catalyst for the dissemination of information in this day and age. We are happy to see how it is used to create a ripple of change in the world, and we urge everyone reading to lend a hand to those who have been affected by the recent #penangflood, be it in cash or kind. If you’re not sure of where you can channel your aid to, feel free to check out any of the pages listed above for more information. In the words of Anne Frank, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”