The search for missing IU student Lauren Spierer has spread across social media like wildfire. From a Twitter feed, @NewsOnLaurenS to a Facebook page, find.lauren, thousands have taken interest in her case.

We talk about social media ROI and ponder the business results from engaging with customers and pushing out content on Twitter and Facebook. You can explore the same questions of the social media efforts for Lauren and other missing persons cases. Can 38,000 + likes on the Find Lauren Facebook page lead to information beneficial to her case? What is the outcome of getting country star Miranda Lambert to Tweet with the #FindLauren hashtag? The social media efforts seem to have generated even more media coverage for her case, which is potentially helpful.

I’ve seen more and more instances where families and friends use social media to get the word out about missing people. I would like to see “social media people” like myself get involved. I think we can use our online presences to help find missing people, spreading Amber Alerts and news about missing people in a way that meets these responsible/practical qualifications:

1) It engages the right people, increasing the liklihood for RT’s and therefore actually being helpful.

2) Isn’t spamming one’s network with constant updates, maintaining the personal brands you’ve built and not reflecting poorly on the companies you work for…enabling you to maintain that presence that offers you a platform to be helpful with.

1. Learn the Types of Alerts

Amber AlertsAmber Alerts are coordinated by the US Department of Justice. They are a partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, the wireless industry and the transportation industry to release urgent information to alert the community of missing or abducted people 17 years old and younger. All 50 states, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands use Amber Alerts. Over 500 children have been saved since this program began.

More information about Amber Alerts

Amber Alerts on Twitter

Amber Alerts on Facebook

Get Amber Alerts sent to your phone via SMS

Silver AlertsSilver Alerts are like Amber Alerts for seniors with dementia or people over the age of 17 with other cognitive disorders. They are not shared on Twitter in real-time (yet…) but you can learn more about the efforts to get Silver Alerts in all 50 states by following @silveralertbill. Currently 28 states offer Silver Alerts or similar programs.

More information about Silver Alerts

2. Identify the Location of Your Followers

Find out where the majority of your Twitter followers live. It’s not that missing people in your state are more important than ones who aren’t, but time is of the essence in the search for a missing person, especially with Amber Alerts. Seventy-four percent of children who are murdered by their kidnappers are killed within three hours of being taken. My thinking is this: If  you focus on broadcasting messages (like Amber Alerts) that are more targeted to your followers by location, you are more likely to actually put those Tweets in front of a person who is in the area where that person went missing and therefore could be able to help.

Plus, as we know with Twitter, your Tweets will be more effective and more likely to be ReTweeted if they are relevant to your followers.

Using SocialBro, you can run a quick analysis of your Twitter followers to see where they are located. I live in Boston, and most of my followers are also in Boston. I do have a lot of people in Upstate, NY as well. (That’s where I’m from.)

According to SocialBro, most of my Twitter followers are in the Boston, MA area.

2. Subscribe to Missing Persons Information For Your State


@OurMissingKids is run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). It shares information about missing children and endangered runaways. They use the hashtags #missing and #haveyouseenme for each one.

Subscribe to a Twilert for (where most of your followers are located) your state’s abbreviation and the hashtag #haveyouseenme. (It’s less cluttered than #missing.)

Create a Twilert for #haveyouseenme and your state's initials.

ReTweet if you receive one for your state.

@Amber_Alerts is the official Twitter account for Amber Alerts and this is where they share Amber Alerts in real-time. Use Twitter’s advanced search to subscribe to an RSS of “AMBER ALERT”, your state’s abbreviation.

Search for "Amber Alert", your state's initials. Using NC as an example of query with current results.


Amber Alerts now offer Facebook pages for all 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Find your state’s Amber Alerts page here.

A feed of active Amber Alerts targeted by state is what’s planned for these pages, although I haven’t seen posts quite yet.

The notifications might not make your main newsfeed with all the other clutter that Facebook has to offer, but you can subscribe via RSS to your page’s updates so you don’t miss them.

Manage your RSS feeds in a Google Reader folder just for this information for organization.


Amber Alerts now offers a widget for your blog’s sidebar featuring missing persons information, Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts along with safety tips and a way for people to sign up to receive email notifications for these alerts. Sign up at to get your widget.

4. Not Everyone Has to Do This

Do I really think that every single person who reads this post will go through the trouble of setting this stuff up? No. But I do think a few people might do one or two of these things, or at least take an interest in this. And that’s where it begins.

As Gladwell wrote, activism via social media offers a low entry-point for participation: All it takes is a Tweet, Facebook share or “like” to be involved. If a few people start to share these things, that will lead to ReTweets and engagement to get the word out more. That’s what influence is about.

I’m clearly no Chris Brogan and I don’t know if people actually ever listen to what I have to say, but this occurred to me: For all the sandwich Twitpics I’ve sent, dumb infographics or half-read articles I’ve ReTweeted (you’ve done it too) and FourSquare checkins I’ve pushed to Twitter, can’t I occasionally share things that could help someone/something other than @JanetAronica?

The world is so much bigger than this echochamber of Tweetups and ninjas. Twitter for marketing is just the tip of the iceberg. Social business begins to scratch the surface. But there is an entire other layer of social media’s potential beyond just business that is practically untapped.

Will we participate?

I leave you with additional conversations on this topic:

Abducted (Boston Globe – I thought this was a decent and fair article regarding Amber Alerts’ limitations)

Finding Missing Persons: From Milk Cartons to Wall Posts and Tweets (Social Media Today)

Social Networking Tools Help Find Missing Children (Fox News)

Twitter Users Help Find a Missing Child in Just Three Hours (The Next Web)

Using Social Media for Missing Children’s Cases

My Twitter List of Resources

6 Comments on How Social Media Pros Can Help Find Missing People

  1. Anonymous
    June 12, 2011 at 10:40 pm (6 years ago)

    Wow, fantastic heads up on this topic Janet. Indeed, it is just like you say, not everyone has to do this and not all the time, but taking the focus on ourselves out for at least a tweet and helping someone is really well worth doing. And you are right, this is completely untapped an should (and will, I am sure) be leveraged a lot more in the future.

    Thanks for this thought provoking and refreshing post. First thing I will do is check out Amber alerts and familiarise myself with the service.

    Buffered that post for sure. 🙂

    PS: Can it really be that me and Joel are the only dots from the UK on your socialbro map? 🙂

    • Janet Aronica
      June 13, 2011 at 2:10 am (6 years ago)

      Thanks for reading! And yes… lol I feel like those two dots across the pond are totally you and Joel.

  2. Jose Barreto
    June 20, 2011 at 3:50 pm (6 years ago)

    Great post!  This is something everyone should be doing…..I’m in. 


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