One of the worst tornadoes to ever touch ground just destroyed the city of Joplin, Missouri. Already a few hours into this nightmare, people were already turning to the internet to try and make sense of the shock they were in. From missing family members, friends, co-workers, to entire city blocks and neighborhoods, where does one even start to connect the dots?

Located in Portland, Oregon, what could I ever do to help?

Quite frankly, the assessment of needs what just starting to come out from the ground intel we were getting through social media and what day light was left for media to point a camera towards.

Perhaps at such early stage, I could at least give of my prayers as well as that of my only other thing of value… my viral footprint or simply put, my digital influence.

Perhaps in this, we are all connected through prayer, that is. With connecting the dots, that’s where our viral footprint comes in.

Just a few short hours after the tornado ripped through the town, online platforms like Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, and Flick’r were already beginning to offer up a narrative that none of us would soon forget.

Like opening up a puzzle to scattered the pieces all over a table, how would we ever be able to tell a story from this?

A tweet here, a picture there. A call for help here and a home video there. That which my eyes were seeing felt the intensity, despair, and shock of the one who posted them.

Perhaps there for my eyes to see was a puzzle waiting to tell its story? Perhaps there, was a lot of other puzzles, waiting to tell their stories too?

My story was told and repeatedly updated as I found new pieces scattered about just hours after the news broke. From seeking to put this small puzzle together, along the way, I met several people and news media on the ground in Joplin or with friends and family there. People I will never forget.

Perhaps in seeking to put this puzzle together, someone else found the very piece they were needing to put their puzzle together and therefore get the help or provide the help needed to make a difference in the aftermath of such tragedy?

In this, many will still say that social media is a waste of time. many will also say that platforms like Twitter is just meaningless babble. Certainly like anything, it can become that. But, for those in search of that one piece of the puzzle in their time of need…. nothing meaningless about it.

Because you use matters not to me. How you use it… does.

What puzzle will you help solve today?

Here is how I used my viral footprint for Joplin. What I used was a great new tool that many in the media have begun to use as well. It’s called Storify. With this, it gives you the ability to slide tweets, pics, updates, videos, and links around a specific topic directly into your article. It also gives you the ability to inform those you have quoted from their updates that you have used them in your article. This then truly allows you to both connect with new people as well as go viral much quicker. With this specific post that I made, close to 1k people viewed it in a few short hours.

In this, please note, this is not about me, but about ideas on how we all might be able to do our part. It is also about hopefully addressing some of the frozen perceptions out there that many still have regarding social media.

Just because others are meaningless, doesn’t have to mean you are too.

We re all in this together, eh?

But also know this… even without Storify, you can make a difference by using Twitter in events like this tragedy.

  • Follow the most used hashtags for the event you are following
  • Retweet the critical information tweets from reputable sources
  • Encourage those in the impact zone by engaging them
  • When you tweet about it, use the hashtags
  • Be respectful and sensitive to your audience and the situation
  • Don’t be a distraction, be an enhancement

No matter where you are… you can make a difference.