The Red Cross: Saving Lives Using Social Media Metrics

LaurenHarburn    June 28, 2016

The American Red Cross

The American Red Cross is the number one non-profit emergency relief and preparedness organization in the United States offering assistance, training, and preparedness services to hundreds of millions of people each year. Not only are they saving lives but they have been paving the way for other non-profit organizations through the use of social media for years. Back in 2005 when hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the Red Cross introduced it’s Text 2HELP campaign which was one of the first major industry-wide fundraising campaigns via text-messaging. A study conducted by the Red Cross over the past couple of years shows that social media is the fourth most popular way for people to get emergency information and this method is quickly becoming more prevalent. When you are judging success in terms of property saved and loss averted, it is crucial to have a solid plan in place when it comes to social media and a tangible impact on the organizations ability to serve the community.

The Red Cross receives on average 5000-7000 posts on social media daily, so how do they sort through all of the “noise” to collect valuable lifesaving data?

The Digital Operations Center

When it was discovered that a quarter of the population would choose social media to let loved ones know they were safe in an emergency, The Red Cross knew they had to find an efficient way to sift through all of the social media data they were receiving so that they could serve their communities effectively. They opened a Digital Operations Center in 2012 in Washington D.C. which was the first social media-monitoring platform dedicated to humanitarian aid and since then have opened another in San Jose, CA in 2015. At these social listening centers, a team of 250+ trained volunteers and emergency response managers work together to scan the constant flow of online conversation for situational awareness and opportunities to provide information about how to get Red Cross assistance. When Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, this new concept was put to the test – and proved to be very successful! The team of staff and volunteers collected more than 2.5 million individual social media posts concerning the disasters and were able to isolate nearly 300 of them that showed trends or actionable information which was then passed to the operation teams.


Teaming up with Salesforce

Within the Digital Operations Centers the response teams use Salesforce to help them sift through and analyze data. The centers use Marketing Cloud to listen to all of the social media conversation allowing them to gather invaluable information during a disaster, or monitoring public preparedness for a serious situation. This information can then be used to help determine where to position workers that are at the disaster sites. “Marketing Cloud gives us ways to measure the effectiveness of our community outreach,” says Laura Howe, Vice President of Public Relations. “It helps us to gather and analyze information so we can focus on turning what we learn into actionable strategies.”

The Red Cross also uses Salesforce to effectively manage relationships with volunteers, financial donors, and blood donors that are critical to it’s operations. By using technology called Sales Cloud they were able to consolidate information from 150 national partners and more than 500 local field units to make it easier to build relationships with supporters and volunteers, thank them for their efforts, and get the word out during a crisis. As John Crary, CIO of the Red Cross puts it: “Donors and volunteers are the heart and soul of our organization. The closer we can stay with them, the more we can do for the public at large.”



Lessons for Others

It’s clear that social media continues to have a growing impact on our everyday lives, it is no longer just a tool or a time killer – it’s a life saving device in disaster response and recovery. The data that can be collected in this case goes way beyond vanity metrics and as Albert Einstein said “not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts”. The Red Cross measures it’s success in terms of lives and property saved and these outcomes certainly indicate that they are using social media effectively. As the social world continues to increase in popularity the Red Cross will sustain their strong presence by innovating and evolving as well as providing more chances to listen, engage and give hope in a whole new way.




Organization: American Red Cross
Industry: Humanitarian Aid
Name of Organization Contact: Gail J. McGovern, CEO

Authored by: Lauren Harburn

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