One of my closest friends is in public relations and has been for about ten years now. She was the first one of us to start using Twitter (@BostonMarki) and she has found a small level of local Twitter fame over the last few years with her witty observations of Bostonians in their natural settings. She clearly has a following of people who appreciate her insight and information. I use this as my starting point because I, along with many of my closest friends, have not been big Twitter users but we still appreciate her Tweets however unimportant to the “real world” they are. When it comes to real world news and information, Twitter would not be my first source of information but it has become that many times for a more global audience. It has also led to shifts and both successes and failures in the stock market. It also allows people and machines in outer space to communicate with people and machines on Earth. From tweets to hashtags to that blue bird, it’s amazing how a simple idea described on a playground has become a staple in our culture and it shows no signs of stopping.
Since its founding in 2006 Twitter has developed an incredible database of 284 million active users. These users consist of a combination of companies, organizations, people, and groups all posting for various reasons. If you were to ask people across the world what they would first do if they witnessed a life changing or ground-breaking event I could almost guarantee you’d get a plethora of responses ranging from call mom to tweet.
Over the last several years, some of the biggest events to hit the global news circuit were originally reported on via tweet. Before Fox, NBC or any of the other local or global news stations had time to report on these events, Twitter followers were not only on the scenes but also letting the world know about them. The following are some of the biggest news stories that you may not be aware first broke on Twitter: the China earthquake in 2008, the Hudson River plane crash in 2009, the royal engagement in 2010, the Osama Bin Laden raid in 2011, the death of Whitney Houston in 2012, and the Boston marathon bombings in 2013. All of these events are known around the world and we have watched weeks if not months of coverage pertaining to them. To think that the news was found on Twitter before any news station or newspaper could speak to it tells us the world has changed.
Social media has been a revolutionary addition to our culture over the past 10-15 years and, no matter how hard people don’t want to admit it; institutions ranging from multinational corporations to the government to the Vatican are realizing it is fundamental. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be cautious! Sites like Twitter and Facebook are open for anyone to join and contribute to. Unlike news channels where we can only hope all stories are vetted and researched before being released, we can’t always believe things we read online and through social media. Companies use social media for marketing, press releases, product information, customer service, etc. Individuals use social media for some of the above but also for personal opinion and expression. People will post just about anything if they think they can get others to listen and/or contribute both positively and negatively. I suppose the same can be said for companies but, nevertheless, we should take what we read online with a grain of salt.