Why Twitter?


An update from Philip Downer on the circumstances of the twitter activity in Bozeman. Good Job!

At a recent meeting the Sage of Formosa confronted me about my enthusiasm for and participation in the twitter phenomenon (although phenomenon is probably a dated reference…it’s here to stay). The only response I could think of was to observe that social media provides immediate news and information, and for an information junkie like me, that’s better than crack.

It took one day for life to provide an example of what I like about the new media. Yesterday, I read a story in my RSS feed from the Bozeman Chronicle about a major gas explosion that levelled a big part of a block in downtown Bozeman. I immediately alerted some folks that love Bozeman as much as I do. Apparently, many other folks have the same degree of attraction for that neat town as I do, as the link illustrates. Here it is…

The explosion that rocked downtown Bozeman shortly after 8 o’clock Thursday morning was heard across the country almost immediately.

Before national media had a chance to react, Internet aficionados had already spread the news via social networking sites such as Twitter.com.

“It’s immediate. It’s rapid. As far as an unofficial news source goes, I think it was invaluable today,” said Michael Becker of the MSU Office of Communications and Public Affairs, who created the Twitter hashmark #bozexplod on Thursday.

The tag effectively filtered search results and grew to the No. 2 topic trend on the social networking site.

“If all Twitter did today was help people who needed information, or help reporters find people to talk to, then it was a great resource,” he said.

The users also proved to be a self-regulating bunch. Anyone posting speculation about injuries or the cause of the blast on Twitter was quickly rebuffed, leaving only posts with accurate information and links to photos, blogs and even a Google map including alternate routes and affected buildings…

“We can’t control the Internet, but we can use the power of the Internet, the power to collaborate,” Philip Downer said Thursday evening.

Downer and David Howlett of Manifest Creative, a Bozeman Web design and Internet marketing firm, turned to their computers immediately after hearing the morning blast.

Downer said the experience demonstrated the “viral effect” of messages traveling through cyberspace, constantly reposted and passed on to an ever-expanding group of people.

“Everyone that was there today really gets a feeling for social media,” said Howlett

But Twitter wasn’t the only form of instant communication used to spread news of the disaster.

On Google, Bozeman searches, including “Bozeman Daily Chronicle,” “Bozeman explosion” and “Bozeman news” were three of the top four Google trends in the United States Thursday, giving them a “volcanic” hotness rating on the site.

In addition, local members of Facebook created an almost instantaneous spread of text and picture messages. Before long, outpourings of support appeared on the site, and individuals formed groups to reminisce about better times at the R Bar and the Legion .

Susan Andrus, who spent Thursday updating the Chronicle’s Twitter at http://twitter.com/bozchron, said she used the forum because she knew people would be searching for the latest and most reliable news and the paper was an obvious source for that information.

“We don’t have a town crier, you know?” Andrus said Thursday night.

This really illustrates two points. First, the newspaper, in its current form, cannot provide the amount and depth of information in the time frame demanded by the newest/youngest/most connected consumers of information.

The second point is that the local paper supplied information via their twitter feed, but it took other parties to organize facebook and set up a hashtag for the explosion on twitter.

All of which serves to point out that information is now best found at the intersection of journalism and social media…..and the newspaper industry better figure that out pronto.

It’s time for the Sage to get on board the Information Expressway……..


3 Replies to “Why Twitter?”

  1. Thanks for your article about how Twitter played an important roll in the news of the Bozeman, MT explosion yesterday.

    While the Bozeman Chronicle and a few other news outlets did post information onto Twitter, it wasn’t in real-time. They began by posting links to the articles on their website. As we began Tweeting about the news and what we were hearing, people from all over the world began sending us their questions.

    In response to those questions, we created a customized Google map and began posting photos, videos and information to our blog. The response was so overwhelming, that it crashed our server 3 times throughout the day. We received more hits from that one blog post than we had in all of February 2009.

    The cleanup and recovery of downtown Bozeman is still ongoing. There is still one woman unaccounted for. We continue to post photos and as they become available, which can be viewed here:

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