"I'll send an S.O.S. to the world…I´ll hope that someone gets my…Message in a bottle." The Police
The missing person´s case involving Portland youngster Kyron Horman has certainly drawn a huge amount of nationwide media coverage for obvious reasons since what happened to this family is every parent´s worst nightmare brought to life. Fortunately for me, my family has no experience in living through this scenario…however, if it did happen to us, I hope I would have the fortitude to do more than just hope the police find my child and bring him/her home safely. Playing actively in the social media space to supplement the police effort could yield huge dividends in the search effort. Many victimized families utilize offline media to make public pleas in an effort to find their missing family member…however, the benefits of working social media to help solve the case are frequently untapped.
What would be elements of a good strategy to put into play?
Domain Names: Hopefully, you´ve already purchased the dot com domain names of everyone in your family (if they are available). A well-publicized missing child case will garner lots of news attention and if you are capable of putting out a message giving out necessary and pertinent details about your child & asking the public for help, it needs to primarily reside on the web and be indexable by the search engines (even if it also resides elsewhere). It´s also important that when you communicate to either online or offline media, you include your website URL. If done properly, your domain name should rank highly for people searching for more information about the missing child and your message will have a very wide reach. Just be careful to not to push live information the authorities wouldn´t want you to share.
News Media Outreach: Sure, the media would love to talk to you. There are plenty of reasons why you aren´t / shouldn´t / wouldn´t talk directly to them. However, if you carefully push out information via your website and social media, the media will be your greatest advocates in spreading your message far and wide. If you can reach out to them in limited fashion (and local media is always easy to find & connect with) just to let them know how and where you will be disseminating your message, they´ll hang on each and every word you publish. Then, if relevant, the national media will pick up the story from the local media.
Twitter: Nothing galvanizes a community more than a missing child. The news media is already spreading your message in its own way but frequently, their delivery can be cumbersome and less than timely. A tweet w/ link to updated information on your website is an extremely efficient way to get your message to interested parties with incredible haste. Once the national media picked up on Kyron´s disappearance, top Tweeters like @ev and @iamnotdiddy broadcast messages about the case which really helped increase its visibility. If you are up to reaching out to these visible folks with words of thanks, perhaps they´ll keep spreading your message making it exponentially more effective. If you can get your URL into their tweets, you´ll generate a lot of people who can then read your blog and subscribe to your RSS feed for your latest updates.
Facebook: Facebook can be a double-edged sword. Locking down your personal account during such a crisis is likely the best strategy…if you are broadcasting messages inconsistent with a grieving family, you´ll get publicly flogged. Facebook Fan Pages are a way to spread your message through the Facebook community…however, I´d likely just use them as a vehicle for reposting the website content behind the Facebook walled garden. The compelling nature of your message will make it likely to spread and your personal Facebook friends are the best candidates make it happen. I wouldn´t add any Facebook Friends that you wouldn´t add under normal circumstances…you should keep your personal communications apart from the effort at hand.
Other Networks: It would be awesome if your messaging gets Dugg / Redditted / Mixxed / Stumbled, but I wouldn´t focus my efforts there unless you already have strong network working on your behalf.
PPC: I don´t expect grieving parents to signup for AdWords after their kid is kidnapped but bidding on the name of the missing child in order to send interested people to your website can bring plenty of additional visibility.
Law enforcement generally isn´t qualified to work your case via social media. If you are able to advocate for your cause online, the chances of a successful outcome should increase.