The COVID-19 crisis has battered the healthcare system in India and forced many to turn to social media for help. #SOS calls for oxygen cylinders, medicines, hospital beds, etc are now common across social media be it Twitter or Instagram.
But how does one use these platforms to get the right help, especially if you’re not familiar with them? We take a look at how to best use these platforms to get help for COVID-19 resources.
Some common points to keep in mind
When posting for help on any platform, don’t worry that you lack followers or don’t have a blue tick — the aim is to get your call amplified by those who have bigger reach and can help you with finding some leads.
When posting, be it on your local WhatsApp Group or on Twitter, make sure you clearly highlight all key details. This includes the kind of help needed, even if it is just medicines or food, the name of the patient, the age, the blood oxygen or SPO2 levels, whether they need hospitalisation or a home setup will do.
The number of a contact person, blood group of the patient, etc should also be mentioned if you are posting for help.
Remember, clearly outline your need when asking for help on social media to get the best responses. You will find yourself forced to dial a lot of numbers, so be patient. Many leads on social media might not always work.
Twitter has emerged as one of the main spaces where people are posting calls for help and others are amplifying these SOS calls. Twitter also has a dedicated COVID-19 hub where users can go via the Explore tab, which is the magnifier symbol at the bottom of your Twitter page.
Users will see live event pages, Public Service Announcements (PSAs), and other information here. The COVID-19 SOS page is also here in the Explore tab. The SOS page has tweets, leads, other information to help those who are looking for help on the platform.
Users can also tweet or search with the #Covid19IndiaHelp to see what others have tweeted regarding help in their city.
Another useful resource for finding information is https://covid19-twitter.in/, which is a simple aggregator tool, that lets you search for medicines, ventilators, oxygen cylinders, etc for your city. Make sure you tick the right boxes and the results will show some verified leads for the concerned information.
Twitter says it has also curated lists of health authorities, public health experts, health journalists, fact-checkers, and other authoritative sources to get accurate information. It also has a List of verified organisations, participating in COVID-19 relief work. It has also expanded its Home Timeline prompts, which will now feature the latest information around COVID-19 vaccines. The information will be available in both English and Hindi languages.
Users should rely on hashtags such as #COVID19IndiaHelp, #COVIDEmergencyIndia and #COVIDIndiaSOS, when tweeting out for help on the platform. Even if you don’t have a significant number of followers on the platform, try and tag those who have accounts with larger following so they can amplify SOS calls.
As always double check with any numbers you find being shared on the platform and do not make advance payments if you are in doubt, given there have been cases of fraud as well.
Use plenty of hashtags to get your call noticed. And make sure to delete your post if you manage to get help so that others who need it can get it.
On Instagram, many influencers are amplifying SOS calls by their followers for help. It would be best to tag them in your Stories, and see if they can repost and share your call.
You might have to make your account public so that your Stories get more views as well and are shared widely.
If posting on Stories, make sure you clearly outline the needs, similar to Twitter. Highlight the need clearly, be it hospital bed or ventilator or oxygen cylinder or even the medicines. The name of the patient, the blood group, the age, SPO2 levels, contact information for the attendant will also help when you are posting on Instagram.
Allow your friends and followers to share or repost your Stories as well so that they can spread it in their networks.
The advantage of Telegram is that groups can be really big here. Some users have created groups where they are posting verified resources for help across various cities.
The groups on Telegram where you can find some help are ICLU:Covid Response and Covid Resources Pan India. You can search for these groups in the Telegram app and join them since they are public groups.
Facebook has a dedicated COVID-19 information tab on its mobile app and desktop website as well, where you can get official government information on the outbreak. However, many users are also posting using hashtags on Facebook such as #COVIDEmergency, #COVIDSOS #COVID19emergency, which you should use if you are making an #SOS call on the platform.
Try and make sure your post is public and not limited to just friends for wider research. You can change the settings at the time of posting or even after posting. If the post has a globe/world symbol near the timestamp, it is public.
Facebook has also partnered with the Government of India, and will begin rolling out its Vaccine Finder tool on the Facebook mobile app in India this week. The tool will be available in 17 languages and will help people identify places nearby to get the vaccine. The tool will also show walk-in options and a link to register on the CoWin website and schedule vaccination appointments. The tool can be accessed in the COVID-19 Information Center.
If you are part of Groups on Facebook, it would also help to post there and see if others on the group can help you as well.
Truecaller has launched a Covid Hospital Directory for users in India. The directory is built into the app and can be accessed from either the menu or the dialer, according to the company.
The directory includes telephone numbers and addresses of covid designated hospitals from multiple states, which have been sourced from official government databases. A search button helps users quickly find the information. But getting through to the hospitals might be a different problem given most are flooded with calls.