People-powered journalism: the #UKstorm

Monday morning. On my way to work. Arrived at the train station. Discovered the following:

Yes, a storm has arrived in the UK and turned the daily routine for millions of people upside down. As I am writing, updates keep coming and the situation keeps developing.

Social media (and open platforms such as Twitter in particular) is an irreplaceable news source in situations like this. We no longer need to rely on journalists to gain an overall understanding of a rapidly changing situation. Social analytics tools not only provide big picture analysis, but can even enable us to identify sub-themes and topics that emerge within the trend, and act accordingly.

Identifying the right hashtag

We can monitor a set of keywords or hashtags related to the issue or event. However, if we were supposed to tweet about this event, it is important to choose the right hashtag to increase the reach and relevance of our posts. Here’s the popularity of two similar hashtags provided by Radian6:

We can see that more than 80,000 posts are associated with #UKstorm.

Understanding the severity of the situation

Radian6 provides a timeline feature that visualises the popularity of a particular topic, keyword or trend over time. Once the storm calms down, people get to work and get on with their lives, we should see a fall in the volume of conversations. This is what the timeline graph looks like so far:

Yesterday the number of #UKstorm mentions exceeded 45,000. And today by 11.30am this volume has already crossed 40,000. We are likely to see continual growth in the popularity of the conversations until the weather calms down.

Identifying core issues

The conversation cloud allows us to drill down into the particular topics within the conversation.

In this case, we can identify both the issues and location of most conversations. Trains, trees and travel stand out as key issues. London and Kent seem to be the most affected areas.

Seeing the most popular insights

Topsy is another great source of social news, and, unlike Radian6, its basic functionality is free of charge. I like it for its sentiment analysis capability, as well as the ability to see real-time examples of trending tweets within a particular topic.

Here are some of the most retweeted posts as identified by Topsy:

In conclusion

Social media provides such a scale of actionable insights that it empowers people like you and me to become journalists on the ground. We can now tell the scale of an upcoming issue as well as drill down into the specifics of it. Use it to your advantage, and, most importantly, to stay safe!

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