social media watch

Supporting Japan on Twitter, at SXSW and Beyond

Posted by Sheila Shayon on March 14, 2011 12:30 PM

As the extent of the devastation from Japan's earthquake and tsunami double whammy on Friday continues to unfold, social media is providing a means of information, connection, relief and action for those in the country and beyond.

As the New York Times notes, Twitter is the #1 social network in Japan. The country has an estimated 10 million users, or one out of every 10 of its citizens online, using Twitter (per ComScore) — compared to the estimated 2% of Japan’s 100 million web population that uses Facebook.

Naturally, Twitter responded with resources for users in Japan over the weekend to provide information and help communications in the earthquake’s aftermath, offering a guide with tips in Japanese and English.

“We feel that it is part of our duty to do whatever we can, no matter how little, to support those during times of need like this,” the site stated on its blog.

Google quickly launched a People Finder app and crisis response page early Friday, while Facebook marshalled its Global Disaster Relief page to provide updates on contributions and help.

As the tech world gathered in Austin, TX, for South by Southwest, 45 minutes after news of the earthquake hit American media the website SXSW4Japan.org was organized. "I woke up and I saw the news and I knew we needed to do something about this," said Rob Wu, a co-founder of CauseVox, a web startup that helps nonprofits create online fundraising campaigns.

Hugh Forrest, director of SXSW Interactive, commented: "In the last months we've had several panels change their focus to talk about how social media has affected world events." 

Treehugger also reports that during his on-stage keynote address at South by Southwest, Architecture for Humanity co-founder Cameron Sinclair announced a $75,000 commitment from donors including Nike to help support rebuilding in Japan, "along with a personal pledge: If the donation link bit.ly/sxsw4JP is re-tweeted 100,000 times, he'll donate 10% of his own salary."

Sinclair says the Sendai reconstruction project will unfold in stages, depending on how much money is ultimately raised. The initial funds will cover design services. If it raises at least $200,000, Architecture for Humanity will work over several years to design and construct community centers and other public buildings.

In another impressive and impromptu show of tech savvy, social swiftness and compassion at SXSW, Leigh Durst helped (with Deb Ng and Rob Wu) pull together South by Southwest Cares and the #sxswcares hashtag on Twitter to rally support for Red Cross relief efforts in Japan — all while working out of the Samsung blogger lounge, as she explains below:

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