This just in: How Twitter is re-defining breaking news

Twitter phone

Last Friday, severe thunderstorms ripped through southern Ontario as well as Quebec, and uprooted trees, flipped cars and resulted in one reported death.

Just like a light switch suddenly going off, I found myself abruptly in the height of the storm as I started my drive along one of Ontario’s busiest highways, the QEW. I didn’t make it quite far but what I did notice when I pulled over and looked at my Twitter account – was the overflow of news on the storm’s progress with hashtags such as #TOstorm and #onstorm.

Gone are the days when reporters prepare all news content. With the advent of Twitter more and more news is captured in real-time, first on Twitter by folks like you and I, who capture it through photos and videos.

Today, I examine how Twitter is changing the way news is presented, how media outlets are dealing with the changes and how Twitter can be used as an effective customer service tool for organizations who need to respond to crisis such as weather related issues.

Lighting speed. No longer do we have to wait for the evening news programs to come on television to hear about what is happening in the world. Twitter allows users to post news updates as the news events are happening, whereas reporters often have to go through editors before posting their news, which can result in a time delay.

According to The Telegraph researchers have revealed that Twitter did outperform traditional news outlets with news of disasters where witnesses were at the event.

Twitter clearly has the advantage in terms of speed in communicating the news. The global social media platform has media outlets taking note and finding ways to use Twitter for their own goals.

Twitter as a news resource. Twitter has worked so well, as a tool for breaking news, that journalists are now using the social media platform as a method to receiving breaking news stories.

As reported on Mashable, The Daily Telegraph was using Twitterfall in its newsroom to gather breaking news information captured on Twitter. Twitterfall tracks trending topics and hashtags. This signifies changing media practices and lends to the fact that the news you are reading may have originated from the actual witnesses experiencing it and not the news media itself.

Opportunity knocks. There’s an opportunity to use Twitter in a way that allows organizations to showcase how they respond and provide solutions when disaster strikes. Just like the public communicates information on events as they happen – in real-time on Twitter, so too can organizations that are a part of the solution. Twitter can be an excellent customer service tool to provide updates to customers and the general public. A transparent organization that continually provides updates on Twitter with links to their website for more detailed information – can earn the public’s respect.

Organizations who respond to issues can also participate in conversations with their Twitter community to provide valuable solutions to customers and in turn enhance the perception of their companies.

Just yesterday, The Weather Network reported severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings for southern Alberta and southern Manitoba. It’s safe to say you’ll be able to catch the updates on this new story and ones like it from people experiencing them as they happen, via the social media platform that is changing the media landscape: Twitter. #socialmediamonth