Social Media's role in events and catastrophes


The recent catastrophe at the Loveparade in Duisburg, Germany once again showed how Social Media has changed the way we produce and share information and thus how news are made today. Information has been democratized. No longer are we dependent on the information provided by the government or the nearest newspaper. News arrive immediately and right from the place where it happens. Information helps us mak better decisions. It is not far-fetched if some argue that tomorrow’s wars are no longer won by the better equipped army but by the better informed army.

To provide a better impression of the point I am trying to make here, I have simplified the events and grouped them into three stages: before the event, during the event and after it. In this order, I will discuss the role Social Media has or could have played.

Running Social Media analysis tools could have provided a good impression of how many people were expected to show up in Duisburg. As we all never „walk alone“, we ususally try to attend events with our dearest friends or at least with people who share the same interests as we do. Thus many of the guests used social communities and platforms to organize. They talked about the upcoming event on Twitter and in blogs and forums in order to inform themselves about the event. They searched for recommendations of experienced love parade goers to find out about how to best get there, where to spend the night, etc. Aside from all the hype and anticipation, there were also critical voices who no only spoke out their concerns but also wrote them down: in forums, blogs, social communites or on Twitter. Obviously they were not heard or not considered important (maybe the recent trend of crowdsourcing has not arrived in this segment)
Both aspects can be traced afterwards as „the internet does not forget things…“

Major events attract thousands of people. The closer you come to the center of action, groups merge with bigger groups, join the stream of people and become masses of people. And usually there is only one way: forward. One easily looses orientation and even has trouble staying together as a group.

Sounds as chaotic as an anthill at a quick glance. But ants do not collide. While the ants usually have total control of the situation, humans easily get lost. In fact many experts who deal with behavior analysis or traffic analysis ofte draw parallels to animal kingdom. Very often animals seem to have become experts when it comes to organize large numbers.
Humans also manage to get along. Take a big railway station or an airport for example. Thousands of people each with different destinations manage to get along without permanently crashing into one another. I experience this a lot. And it works perfectly fine. Individual distance is one of the phenomenon helping us to find our way. But there are limitations. As soon as the crowd is very heterogenous this automatic sense for passing by does no longer work. We see this on the autobahn (highway) or during rush hour in public transportation when everyday commuters meet people on a holiday trip, or when young dynamic people mix with elderly more slow people. Their different habits and speeds collide. The same goes for large audience who often due to small causes panic.
Is there a solution? Well yes, communication is one way. But as soon as a certain number of people is reached this won’t work anymore, there are simply too many people. Here cell phones and text messages but also microblogging services such as Twitter but also facebook for your phone could be of great help to communicate and to get rational objective information about what is going on. While in the Woodstock era you had no chance of sharing information with people in the distance, today many of us become real-time reporters, sharing their impressions by text, image or even video. These news are often very accurate and foremost, they are fast as hell. People report things as they happen.

And things happened in Duisburg. People attending the love parade not only broadcasted the fun and joy but also the fear and panic when all of a sudden there were simply too many people for a narrow tunnel.
This reminded me of Crowdsourcing, another buzz word in marketing these days and a technique often used to solve complex problems. While there are some who praise crowdsourcing to be the source of all solutions, others deem it to be inefficient and an illusion. Or in other words: the crowd is stupid so better rely on few experts. Now with the Duisburg loveparade case, one could argue that yes, the masses were stupid or behaved in an irrational and fatal way. Having put the decision into the hands of one single smart leader could have avoided the panic. Maybe. But how do you want to communicate in a group of several hundred thousand people and why should they listen and to whom? Impossible.
Also, crowdsourcing is a strategy that can be applied only to a certain fixed situation. It requires that you are free to choose between alternatives and also have the time to do so. In the case of the loveparade the crowd had no moderator or leader who organized them and could have filtered every single persons best strategy. Thre was no structure behind like when you ask 20 people to guess the exact weigth of any given person. But even when there is no framework, crowdsourcing techniques may work for a limited number of people. But without a framework, even Social Media cannot provide the necessary transparency to bring some order into the masses. In sum, there were simply too many people, they were in a state of lacking information or a lacking transparent information and their actions where impulsive, subjective and rather reactions. There was no control and thus panic.

However, Social Media did have a positive effect: it enabled people to use their cell phones and communicate to the braod public that something was going wrong here. In real time.


Merriness soon turned into madness. But even with all the sad events having happened, Social Media again plays a helpful role. It enabled people to contact their friends, discuss their impressions and thus provide first-hand information to the public. Forums and blogs as well as social networks enabled people to get into contact. Again, the fact that the internet has a pretty good memory turns out very helpful for the police and other institutions investigating the case. It is as if the whole area had been plastered with video cameras and paparazzi. User-generated content now becomes highly relevant material for the case. And there is plenty. „love parade 2010“ returns 7460 video results on
Hopefully this will contribute to find out who is to be hold responsible for the panic.

As for the extreme speed at which Social Media travels, it raises the question if analyzing Social Media is not a mandatory element for major events. Just as major corporations and consumer brands should always keep track of what is being said about them. Maybe then, previous warning messages posted by people familiar with the Duisburg area or those who have participated in previous loveparades would have been heard and taken into consideration. As smart as the sum of minds may be, in a state of panic humans often behave irrational and counterproductive. Looking into animal kingdom may be of help to better organize masses. During an event the possibilities to control a group are limited. It is best to provide in advance options to escalate the event. And one should always take into account the worst case. As said before, masses are irrational…

Quelque chose en francais – trouvé par SOM

Voila une presentation par l‘ agence Vanksen qui s’appelle „10 Best Practives en Marketing 2.0 – Conference BuzzTheBrand 2009. J‘ ai choissisez cette presentation parce qu’elle explique très bien le link de une marque forte et le phenomen „Buzz“.

HOW TO: Manage Successful Social Media Promotions

Ben Straley is the CEO of Meteor Solutions, provider of the leading word-of-mouth analytics and optimization platform that enables marketers to measure, manage, and monetize earned media.

With holiday shopping in full swing, social shopping is already making a big impact. Data from Hitwise shows that downstream traffic to the Retail 500 coming from both Facebook (Facebook) and Twitter (Twitter) increased 36% and 15% respectively on Thanksgiving from the previous day. Downstream traffic to retailers grew again on Black Friday and Cyber Monday as many retailers promoted sales through fan pages and tweets.

This data is very encouraging for marketers, but a social media campaign must still be managed correctly for maximum ROI. Here are some tips on how brands can best engage their customers by offering what everyone now looks to social media for – a bargain.
New Strategies to Turn Buzz Into Buy

new strategy imageOther recent research confirms the fact that people are increasingly turning to social networks to get deals on products and services. Razorfish found that the primary drivers of “friending” or “following” a brand were promotions and discounts. Over one-third of social network users and 44 percent of Twitter users engaged with a brand through discount promotions. This is good news for marketers, but the stats also pose challenges to the way marketing programs and advertising budgets will be structured in the future.

Brands have long spent big money on commercials, media placements, direct mail, and more. With most of these methods, there is little way to measure the impact on your bottom line. You either get lucky with a surge in sales after your campaign, or it didn’t work. Either way, success or failure was impossible to measure.

If done right, social marketing is a fantastic way to get the best of all worlds from a campaign – wide-scale and targeted distribution of your offer, for free. But to get it right, marketers have to step lightly. If you’re too pushy with too many promotions, your followers will feel “marketed at” or “spammed.” If you don’t offer good enough deals, your customers may become frustrated and stop following you. After all, they don’t really want to be your friend. They want bargains. Here are some steps for getting social media promotions right.

1. What Are People Saying About Your Brand?

Find out what people are saying about your brand, why they are saying it, and who they are saying it to. You have to do more than just get a vague reading on brand buzz. Track the actual pass-along of your brand’s social content via tweets, blog posts, Facebook postings, etc. to see which content is driving the most sharing on which sites. You can use social media traffic tracking software to do this.

Tracking this word-of-mouth buzz is crucial to formulating the right marketing messages and promotions. You must deliver relevant social deals that resonate with people’s interests.

2. Create a Social Promotion

social imageOnce you figure out what people want using the tracking methods above, go ahead and give it to them. For example, you might find that everyone loved your last 20% promotion – it was shared to hundreds of thousands of people via social sites and email – but that the most frequent negative comment was that shipping costs were too high. In your next promotion, offer free shipping.

Or, you may find that there was a huge surge in Twitter searches, blog comments, and Facebook updates about your brand’s winter boots during a snowstorm. This is a great opportunity to immediately put out a social promotion for 20% off boot purchases for one day only via Twitter, Facebook, and/or your company blog.

Have fun with your social promotions. Unlike paid search ads and other media buys, you don’t have to plan and budget for them. Instead, just try one or two out and see what happens.

3. Did It Work?

Figure out whether your promotion worked, and what bottom line impact it had on sales and profits. Go back to your social media tracking and measurement tool and find out how much your promotion was shared, what increase it caused in traffic to your website, and what direct impact it had on conversion. You might want to compare two different promotions run during a similar time frame to see which worked better and why.

For example, did a 50% Off promotion drive more sharing, visits, or conversions than a Two-For-One? In addition to doing simple “A/B” tests, compare results for promotions like these against the data from your regular marketing analytics platform to see whether your social media promotions are performing better or worse than traditional paid marketing campaigns. Social promotions almost always perform better than paid media ads in terms of conversion, but paid ads may drive a higher volume of traffic to your site.

Lastly, do an ROI analysis of your social media promotions to find out their real impact on bottom line profits.


Social media promotions are here to stay. Make sure you use the social channel to deliver “exclusive” deals that make your friends and followers feel special. They’ll thank you by making purchases.

Article originally published on
HOW TO: Manage Successful Social Media Promotions

Posted using ShareThis