Following yesterday’s devastating terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium, many with family or friends in the area immediately turned to their smartphones or computers to get the latest updates.
In the hours since, social media has continued to play an integral role in creating a helpful dialogue and spreading it to the masses. Facebook in particular – as seen with the Brussels Airport page, and the Facebook Safety Check feature we last saw employed on such a grand scale during the attacks in Paris in November – has been a platform for people to get informed and let others know that they are no longer in harm’s way.
One of the two bombing sites, Brussels Airport (BRU), has established its Facebook page as one of the main points of contact in the region. Shortly after the attacks took place, the page became active, updating its followers on the current situation and how it progressed. Multiple posts encouraged users to call the airport to check on family and friends. The page also sent warnings to stay away from the building altogether.
One of the earlier posts on the page asked those who were in the building at the time of the explosions to use the Facebook Safety Check, which activates if someone is near a natural disaster or dangerous situation. Facebook will send the user a notification if it appears they are close to an affected area. It will then ask that user to click or tap the “I’m Safe” button to inform friends and loved ones. The feature also allows users to check on others to ensure they are safe as well. One can simply check a list of friends who may be affected by the dangerous situation.
Just one day after the attacks, the airport continues to post regular updates on travel cancellations, but the most impressive part is the attention to user engagement. Of the thousands of comments the page has received in the last 30 hours or so, many have been met with attentive responses and encouraging messages. Additionally, the outpouring of love for the country and its people that we’ve seen on newscasts over the last day is just as prevalent on social media, and the BRU page is a great example of such.
As someone who traveled through BRU four years ago this week, I can personally appreciate how far Facebook’s attention to safety has come in such a short amount of time. It’s important in an ever- changing world landscape where attacks like these are, unfortunately, happening with greater frequency. It’s something I know I would have felt safe having while studying as a student abroad.
Sometimes, it’s easy for social media marketers to get caught up in the newest advertising features on social media. In the case of the Brussels attacks, one can appreciate how fast a company like Facebook can activate features that we hope we’ll never have to use. Even further, seeing a page with nearly 77,000 “Likes” turn into a safety information hub proves that this social media tool is continuing to gain importance in multiple areas of everyday life.