It’s been exactly a week since Superstorm Sandy made her journey up the east coast and all the way to our very own New York City. While power outages and downed trees were expected, there were some additional side effects that that took us by surprise. For some it was anxiety from the nomad life we were forced to adopt, for others it was hangovers and weight gain from a weeklong hurricane party. For brands, they were either triumphant or defeated, receiving the ultimate verdict from their customers.
To be honest, due to last year’s ‘hype’ around Irene, the conversation during the build-up to Sandy was more of a meme/gif explosion than an actual conversation, with the formation of websites such as #instacane, SADNY and a slew of others.
While most of us spent Monday laughing at said memes, and the crazy people on the news, gathering reinforcements, [e.g. snacks, booze, and downloading the flashlight app], few of us were prepared for what actually happened. Once the storm hit, and several transformers exploded on Monday evening (causing all of lower Manhattan to lose power) we witnessed something that we’d never before seen; half of New York in complete darkness.
The aftermath we all awoke to on Tuesday morning left a handful of us from We Are Social stranded in Brooklyn, and the rest of us without electricity or water, reminding of us of the basic essentials of life we take fore granted everyday. This sentiment was also felt on social, where you might say a ‘superstorm’ also occurred, as the conversation evolved from sarcastic to serious and began to provide valuable information to those who had lost power and were relying on social media as their news source. Others took to less traditional forms of social which could be spotted all around the city.
The upheaval experienced by those affected from the storm came in many forms. For people like myself (one of the lucky ones), we were camping by the dozens in the apartments of friends (and quite frankly anyone who’d take us!) I frequented my uptown gym more times in one week than I have in 6 months, only to wait in line for 40 minutes to shower.
When those of us that could made it back into the office, which fortunately still had power; we were joined by a few other roamers, joining us to utilize wifi, power and overall sense of community and support.
For brands, the backlash came in an unexpected way, reminding us of the precautions that must be taken after events such as this to ensure we are all empathetic to those around us. ‘Social Media Fails’ included American Apparel, Gap, Sears & Urban Outfitters, among others, and was a great reminder to make sure that there is best practice plan in place after disasters to ensure there is no negative conversation around your brand.
Then there was the other side of social, the truly “social” side that reminds us of how powerful social media can be in times of crisis. There were those that used it to share information and open their homes, showers, outlets, kitchens and companionship to those that remained without power, water or wifi. This was the most inspiring thing of all to transpire after the storm. Many influencers took to acting as the information hub in their area, and later - once most power was restored - began to organize cleanup and volunteer efforts in their neighborhoods via Twitter and Instagram.
Additionally, many charities went viral through platforms such as Facebook & Twitter, allowing for extremely quick growth and high involvement. It was truly inspiring after a week from… well, for lack of a better word, hell. Despite everything, spirits remained high for many of the people who lived through last week’s mishaps. Thanks is due to those who helped us by providing shelter, food, electricity, and of course the much-needed comedic relief.