SALINA, Kan. - When a Virginia Tech student disappeared at a Metallica concert in Charlottesville last fall, her friends and family turned to social media to find her. A few months later, when a Utah woman went missing, supporters launched what some claimed was the most extensive use of online technology in a missing-person search, enlisting close to 40,000 Facebook and Twitter members in three days. Thus far, neither campaign has led to the two missing women.
Nevertheless, said Claudette Artwick, associate professor of journalism and mass communications at Washington and Lee University, another way to assess the success or failure of these efforts is by looking at the media coverage they generate.
In the pre-social-media days, the goal was to get a missing person's photo on television and in the newspaper. Social media now allow friends and family to put that photo in front of millions and millions of eyes with or without the help of traditional media.