The Eye of the Storm

cassyp    May 28, 2017

“Customer engagement is the emotional connection between a customer and a brand. Highly engaged customers buy more, promote more, and demonstrate more loyalty. Providing a high-quality customer experience is an important component in your customer engagement strategy.”Clarabridge.

Customer engagement has always been at the core of any successful business.   Making sure that the people your organization is trying to reach feel cared for and connected to your brand keeps you at the forefront of their mind whenever they are in need of a particular good or service.  And nowhere is an engaged customer base more important than in the case of a natural disaster.   However when you think of emergency services, you may not immediately think of the people they serve as “customers.”   After all, we typically refer to “customers” as “a person or organization that buys goods or services from a store or business.”  But, without spending money, people rely on the Red Cross, and the Red Cross relies on people for a very vital and essential service.

If you build a reputation of being not only reliable but essential, you will be the first place people go when they need help or have help to offer.  Red Cross, one of the world’s leading emergency disaster relief and preparedness organizations saw an opportunity to leverage social media to help its cause – connecting both people in crisis as well as volunteers to the information, partners and services they need when time is of the essence.  When disaster is imminent, access to accurate and timely information can mean the difference between life and death.  It is estimated that over 4 billion people have mobile phones , and over 3.7 billion people use the internet.  In America, 95% of people own mobile phones, 77% of which are smartphones.  And, of the people using the internet, 79% of them use Facebook.    When all is said and done, social media is one of the easiest, quickest, most effective ways to translate messages of urgency to as many people as possible.  That’s why the Red Cross uses their Facebook and Twitter pages to:

  • Help people locate loved ones
  • Facilitate equipment/resource requests and offers
  • Advise triage locations
  • Advise of available fresh water depots, shelter, clothing and food, charging stations
  • Address volunteer inquiries
  • Act as a central hub for sharing information and connecting people to vital resources
  • Provide emergency shelter information
  • Help locate missing people
  • Advise where to receive medical attention
  • Advise what areas to avoid
  • Dispel rumors

They also focus on preparedness, where they use social media to:

  • Provide emergency evacuation route information
  • Post evacuation orders
  • Give regular hurricane, flood, tornado, and other emergency updates
  • Promote personal preparedness (have emergency stock of supplies, food, water in advance)
  • Track the storm

There are however new hurdles when you’re engaging people via social media in such an important and sensitive way.  Making sure people know where to look, who to talk to, how to volunteer, and which information is current and correct becomes a full time job in and of itself.  Social media management becomes just as important as the community outreach itself.   “We have 35,000 concurrent people looking at the website, and we use Salesforce to monitor all of that activity, and watch our trends” says John Crary, CIO of American Red Cross.  Here’s a little look at how it works:

A social media management tool like Salesforce helps organizations like Red Cross stay on top of their social media streams and its clear just how important these tools are.  Salesforce helps us stay connected to our most valuable resources — the volunteers, partners, and donors that make what we do possible.”  Ronnie Strickland, CIO of American Red Cross.  “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.”

Lessons for Others

Lesson for Others:

When your industry relies on relaying information and resources during a crisis quickly and to as many people as possible, customer engagement online is vital.  And when your organization gets large enough, effective usage of social media to engage people becomes two-fold – sharing crucial information through appropriate media streams, as well as managing and monitoring those streams for accuracy, reach and effectiveness.

Organization: American Red Cross
Industry: Non-Profit
Name of Organization Contact: John Crary, CIO

Authored by: CassyP

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


  1.  “What is Customer Engagement?”.  Retrieved 2017 May 28.  (
  2. Turner, Jamie.  “Are There REALLY More Mobile Phones Than Toothbrushes?”.  Retrieved 2017 May 28.  (
  3. “Keeping Track of Your Social Media Connections”.  Retrieved 2017 May 28 from