Twitter is an extremely powerful social media tool. The instant flow of information in the form of tweets allows people to connect much more quickly than was possible many years ago and share ideas within seconds. News can move rapidly through the Twitterverse, it catches like wild fire and explodes as a trending topic. The power of the social media tool can be harnessed and used by journalists to aid them in writing stories. During the past two weeks Twitter was abuzz with the controversy between the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood. A journalist assigned to cover the story could use several different Twitter tools to find in-depth research about the situation.
Had I had been assigned this story, the first place I would begin my research is the Twitter site. Using the site’s search bar I would find the official Twitter accounts of both the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and Planned Parenthood, which happen to be @komenforthecure and @PPact, respectively.
Once I knew both of the organizations’ Twitter account names, I would want to see chronologically how the news was spread on each page. The easiest way to compare the two Twitter feeds, however, is to view them side-by-side on TweetDeck. TweetDeck allows you to create columns devoted to specific needs or interests. So I can load of all the tweets from @komenforthecure and @PPact into separate columns and compare them by date by scrolling to a desired time frame. TweetDeck is convenient because users don’t have to reload pages or hit next to keep viewing more tweets, they simply need to keep scrolling. I could also create columns to show tweets by users who mention either of the organizations which would give me perspective on reactions to the issue.
Another helpful Twitter tool is Twendz. This tool shows up to the minute tweets about a topic that is searched and also pulls popular terms and hash tags commonly associated with that topic. When searching @komenforthecure, popular subtopics listed include @KarenHandel and @PPact, while the accompanying word cloud shows #breastcancer and #fem2. A journalist could use the associated Twitter accounts and terms as leads for more research. A stream of updated user tweets about the searched topic could also produce leads for a story, especially if a journalist is reporting on a breaking news topic.
Finally, I would use Twitalyzer to analyze recent data associated with the controversy and each account. Twitalyzer allows users to see the impact of specific users’ accounts and fluctuations in the number of followers through timeline graphs. The tool also gives general demographics of the accounts followers in terms of age and gender as well as Twitter communities in which the account user actively posts. When searching @komenforthecure data shows that followers of the account are split with 50 percent males and 50 percent females with 31 percent of followers age 45 to 54. Data like this could be used to support facts in a story or help a journalist target their audience.
Having used each if the Twitter tools I mentioned, any journalist would be able to craft a story that accurately unfolds the controversy and be able to show how it is affecting their audience.