Surrounded by stunning lakes and the majestic Andean mountains, the resort town of Bariloche draws tourists from all over the world. On June 4th, an eruption 60 miles away caused thick volcanic ash to rain down and blanket the region.
Some in the news media were quick to announce that Bariloche was a disaster area and would not recover in time for the ski season. If this was the only message broadcast to the world, vacationers would change their plans, ensuring an even greater economic disaster for the town while recovery aid from the national government was uncertain at best.
Rather than accept their fate, the citizens of Bariloche (population 120,000) decided to take action by quickly restoring their town and getting out a message of their own. Using social media, they put the call out for help to dig out the town center and get it ready for tourists. In a campaign called “Bariloche, mi casa” businesses, media, institutions and social groups reached out via Facebook, SMS and other social media channels.
On June 20th, over 6,000 people came together, armed with shovels, push brooms, wheelbarrows, trucks and loaders – whatever they could contribute. They were organized into squads and assigned to clean up different areas of the city. The clean-up effort was a huge success. The town dug out from tons of ash, but maybe more importantly, the event showed Bariloche that together they could accomplish anything and face any disaster.
Participants spontaneously shared photos and videos of the clean-up with their friends and the rest of the country, getting the word out that Bariloche was ready to welcome tourists. Not only did the town receive responses congratulating them for their efforts and their resilience in the face of adversity, traditional media picked up on the story. Soon images of the restored city and the beautiful surroundings were shown on TV and newspapers, encouraging vacationers to put Bariloche back on their travel plans.
The extent of the disaster, the before and after effects of the ash cloud, and the way the town came together can only be truly appreciated through the power of video. The speed of distribution and reach of the message could only be achieved with social media channels. So, next time you need to quickly take control of your message, think video and social!
For another video on the official Facebook page, go here.