On Tuesday 12 January, a 7 magnitude earthquake struck the island nation and caused widespread devastation, killing an estimated 100,000 people and displacing significantly more.

Within minutes, news of the quake spread on Twitter and millions of people mobilised – virtually, at least – to share information, send messages of support and offer assistance in real-life and practical ways.  Momentum spread and soon enough countless strangers were discussing ways they could help.

Waves of people, mostly located in countries far from Haiti, made a great impact without a huge effort or expense.  More than $20 million was raised via a text message donation campaign that encouraged people to SMS a designated number, which added $10 to their next bill in aid of the Red Cross.

A live telethon featuring prominent entertainers was widely discussed on Twitter, with users encouraging donations and support for the cause.

Developers also scrambled to do their bit and created or redesigned a number of iPhone applications to specifically assist with the relief effort.  We Have, We Need is one such application designed to assist relief teams who need supplies by detailing what is most required.  Another encourages users to perform ‘mini tasks’ for organisations in order to ease the burden.

A survivor pulled from the rubble even credited an iPhone first aid application with keeping him alive, while aid agencies have used a number of web-based tools to coordinate their work and fundraising efforts.

Doing something good via social media, or social good, is about creating awareness, inspiring change or taking a stand.  The impact of this outpouring of assistance in the wake of the Haiti quake demonstrates its true potential.

Popular blog Mashable summed it up perfectly by stating “social media acts as both the first warning and the rallying cry for mobilisation”.  Not only that, but it allows people to do something meaningful with relative ease.

Still think social media is pointless?

Sure, it’s not the be all and end all, but these platforms are powerful tools that can work in conjunction with traditional support methods to make a real difference.

15 Years of Fame