London 2012 was proclaimed to be the first ever ‘Social Media Olympics’, with athletes, broadcasters and spectators all using social networks to get their message across and opinions heard.
Athletes were able to communicate directly with their fans like never before, creating a new forum for support – or, in some cases, criticism. A rogue tweeter maliciously tweeted Tom Daley; British athletes tweeted their support for badminton players from South Korea, China and Indonesia who were disqualified after making a series of basic errors in matches; Australian swimmer and BBC pundit Ian Thorpe, who only created his Twitter account due to demand mid-way into the Olympics, had over 95,000 followers at the end of the Games; and the opening and closing ceremonies were played out as much through Twitter as they were in the Olympic Stadium.
What this highlights, albeit through a major global event, is the growing impact of Twitter as a means to communicate directly with individuals and audiences, bypassing traditional media altogether.
It struck me that there have been a few instances in recent months of this in action locally too.
When in June, Jersey experienced a major power cut, Jersey Electricity turned to Twitter to effectively keep the public informed of what was going on. This was particularly useful at a time when there was no power, as people intuitively turned to their battery powered mobile devices, and Twitter feeds, for updates.
Likewise, when there was a gas explosion in Jersey in July, Jersey Gas were quick to create a Twitter account for the sole purpose of keeping its broad range of stakeholders up to date of what was going on. It turned out to be an excellent way to quickly keep the media and the general public informed of a constantly changing, and potentially dangerous, situation, where public information such as evacuation zones and school evacuations were important.
Slightly further away from home, but still pertinent to the Channel Islands, it was interesting that, in the whole ‘Jimmy Carr tax avoidance story’ played out in the national newspapers in June, Jimmy Carr decided to issue his statement of apology through Twitter and not, as might have been done in the past, through an interview, issued statement or press conference. The result was a quick, widely distributed, well picked-up apology.
These broad examples of the use of social media all demonstrate the use of Twitter as a means for individuals, organisations and businesses to directly and successfully engage with audiences that are of most interest to them – and quickly. Whether in a crisis, to address a situation quickly or to engage in live events, Twitter can be an extremely useful tool.
If they haven’t already, businesses would do well to consider how they might use Twitter to their advantage if the situation arose. The chances are, when that situation does arise out of the blue, the rest of Twitter might well be talking about you already, and by then it might be too late to keep it under control.
For more about Twitter, see the latest results from the Crystal PR IFC Media Tweet-dex.