‘Like’ and the Power of Social Media

Posted by on November 14th, 2012

How often in life do you say that you ‘like’ something? “I like your hat, I like the smell of the ocean, I like the Green Bay Packers.” While sometimes you mean it, other times you simply say it to be courteous. Most times the lasting effect of this comment is fleeting at best, but every once in a while, the effect is long lasting, meaningful and compelling.

Such was the case in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

As the extent of the devastation became clear, a number of my friends (informally referred to as the Group of Eight) from the New York marathon and triathlon community got together to see if they could help the victims of this epic storm.  As the backdrop to this discussion, on the Saturday prior to Sunday’s running of the annual New York City Marathon, Mayor Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg, President and CEO of New York Road Runners, cancelled the race – and rightly so.

In short order, this team of endurance racers determined that it was their civic duty to pool their resources and obvious overabundance of energy and will to organize an effort to support the citizens of Staten Island, one of the hardest hit communities in New York.

With time working against them, a Facebook group called New York Runners in Support of Staten Island was formed to get the word out to potential volunteers and fundraisers.

The Original Group of Eight

And boy did the word get out!!!

Created on Saturday evening, by the time the organizers woke up the next morning, the group had attracted more than 500 Facebook ‘likes.’  And by the time the group came together on the Staten Island Ferry on the New York Side, more than 1,300 volunteers were on hand, eager to board the ferry to assist fellow citizens who were (and continue to be) in dire need of help.  Armed with 15-20lb backpacks filled with batteries, clothes, toiletries, and other essentials, these volunteers put the cancelation of the marathon into proper perspective, and hit the ground running – and I mean running – from St. Georges terminal in Staten Island to points throughout the area – some running as far as 8 miles each way!

Week Two of the Relief Effort

Today, the Facebook group boasts 5,833 likes and, more importantly, is being talked about by 16,576 people on Facebook.  This effort also resulted in a tremendous amount of media coverage, including The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Huffington Report, The Today Show, Businessweek and countless others.

Being a communications professional, I certainly understand the power of social media, but it was amazing to experience firsthand how a simple, well-constructed idea can take off.  Social media is a way to communicate with large and disperse audiences that will continue to gain traction as a means to influence, organize and create change.  I suspect that we are in the early innings of what will prove to be an extra-inning game.

So, the next time you say that you ‘like’ something on Facebook, remember the multitude of ‘likes’ that came together on the heels of one of the most epic storms to hit the Eastern Seaboard, and resulted in an outpouring of humanity for the sake of humanity.

To help us continue to support the citizens of Staten Island, please join us on Facebook and on our next trip to Staten Island.