Hotels have harnessed social media to their advantage in innumerable ways in recent years, usually for marketing and customer service initiatives. But the medium has even more powerful and profound applications, as evidenced by the harrowing recent example of Egypt’s Intercontinental Semiramis, located adjacent to Tahir Square in Cairo.

As demonstrations in the city have escalated in recent days, the hotel has found itself in the hot seat. Two days ago, things took a particularly frightening turn as a group of armed marauders apparently used the demonstrations as an opportunity to break into the hotel and begin looting. After its attempts to reach the police for help yielded nothing, the hotel began sending out SOS messages on Twitter—the medium of choice for Egypt’s protest movement. The hotel’s Twitter feed reflects the staff’s growing desperation; “PLEASE SEND HELP #EMERGENCY! WE ARE UNDER ATTACK!” reads one tweet from the early-morning hours of Monday. A little later: “SOS If anyone knows anyone in #Military #Police #Government, please send help! Thugs in Lobby #Emergency #Tahrir #Jan28 #Egypt”

According to a report by the New York Times, after a marketing manager at the hotel issued these tweets help finally did arrive in the form of both Egyptian special forces and a group of protesters who helped push out the assailants. The hotel later thanked these “revolutionaries” in a grateful tweet.

A spokesperson for the InterContinental Hotel Group assured us that the property’s guests have all been safely moved to other hotels. We applaud the hotel for its quick thinking in using every means possible to protect its guests. 140 characters can really make a difference.

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