When crisis strikes, Facebook users often turn to the platform to let friends and family know they’re safe. In the last year, since the social media company launched its Community Help tool, people have also used Facebook to ask for emergency assistance and aid, or offer help to those who’ve been affected.
Now Community Help is getting another feature: Businesses and nonprofits can post about relief services and volunteer opportunities while connecting with victims in need. Lyft, Chase, Direct Relief, Feeding America, Save the Children, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire are among the first organizations and businesses to get the feature.
“Enabling organizations and businesses to post in Community Help will give them a new way to reach communities impacted by crises,” Asha Sharma, product lead of Social Good for Facebook, wrote in a blog post announcing the update.
Sharma said in an interview that participating companies and organizations could help with preparing for a disaster, survival during a crisis, and recovery afterward. In particular, they may be able to address needs like shelter, transportation, and food.
Lyft, for example, offered “relief rides” during Hurricanes Irma and Harvey to provide safe transportation to local survivors. The company partnered with local governments, shelters, and hospitals to reach people. Now, according to a statement released by Mike Masserman, head of social impact at Lyft, the company can also use Community Help to provide rides directly to those who need them during a crisis.
The feature makes it possible for businesses to see requests for help and to respond to or message directly with the user. They can also post requests for volunteers in specific areas.
That engagement will be key to effectively reaching people via Community Help, which has logged more than 750,000 posts, comments, and messages for over 500 different crises, since its launch a year ago.
Sharma said that only companies and organizations with a verified Page can post to Community Help. Facebook is watching the update closely for any signs that people might be misusing the feature to scam or mislead crisis survivors and those who want to volunteer their time and resources during the aid and recovery process.
Facebook’s goal, said Sharma, is to help companies and organizations find out not just where disaster survivors are, but what they actually need. That information, she added, is data that Facebook felt a “responsibility” to share so that communities could mobilize in a time of crisis.