Understanding Twitter

Yesterday, in our Media Relations class, we talked briefly about Twitter and its impact on PR.

I’m not an expert on Twitter yet, but from reading various blog posts and talking to enthusiastic users, I am learning how Twitter allows people to build relationships, share information and interact in real time.

I mentioned to the class that on the night of the US Presidential Election, I followed the election.twitter stream.  I was in awe as I watched hundreds of people tweet their immediate reactions to Obama’s win and it really hit me then that this was a moment I would never forget.  That’s when I started to realize that there was something special about Twitter.

Yesterday, there were two great examples of the power of Twitter:

U.S. Airways flight 1549 crashes into the Hudson River

We were in our Media Relations class and our professor, Barry Waite, was showing us examples of media relations in the news.  When he opened the CBC page, we saw that there had been a plane crash in the Hudson.  He then opened Twitter and asked his followers to say hi to our class.  A few minutes later, someone responded with a link to a story on how Twitter broke the first photo of the plane crash: http://ad.vu/2hrc. The class was amazed.

Toronto’s West End Blackout

I was at home working on the computer when all of a sudden my Tweetdeck (which I had installed only a few hours earlier) started making a lot of noise. I didn’t have the TV on or the radio, and so it was through Twitter that I learned that part of the city was without power.  Quickly I picked up that people were using the #darkTO hashtag for the conversation and I began to follow it myself. People were posting TTC service updates, Toronto Hydro updates, phone numbers for help, and even supportive messages.  An hour after it began, CBC posted this story: Twitter Shines in TO Blackout

What both of these examples showcase is the power to reach a group of people and share information instantaneously using Twitter.  Media outlets were watching streams on both events and not only were they adding information, they were also using information from other tweeters to build their own news stories.

Here’s another story: A friend of mine ran to work in the morning because her apartment was freezing.  A few hours later, she tweeted to #darkTO and asked if her area has power yet or not.  She received a faster response (telling her no) by tweeting than if she had gone searching around the web for that answer.

Are there any other examples of how and why Twitter is so great? In what ways is it not?

Photo Credit: ComicBase – Creative Commons License (BY-NC-SA)

Starting A New Chapter

So, my first week at Centennial College is over.  I’m really excited about the program and so far it looks like it’s going to be exactly what I expected and desired.

This semester we’re taking Introduction to Corporate Communication, PR Writing 1, Event Management, Project Management, Media Relations, Copy Editing and Canadian Business Practices.  While I loved my combined program at Western and I tried to ensure that all my courses there were interesting, I can’t remember a time when I was this engaged with my classes. I realize it’s early and I still haven’t been hit with the crazy workload, but hopefully this continues.

I find the content interesting and relevant and I love the way the teachers include current examples and their personal stories.  It keeps me engaged and I know that I’m already learning a lot about the field.

Now that the program has begun, I’m looking forward to networking with other students and professionals in the field.  I plan to look into CPRS and IABC student memberships and also to start branching out online.  I have spent the past six months or so adding numerous PR blogs to my RSS reader and reading along.  Unfortunately, I’ve been too shy to comment and join the conversation.

My next step is to stop hiding in the shadows and start participating in these lively conversations.  Part of that is commenting on other blogs, but it also means writing more blog posts myself and tweeting more.

Let’s see how it goes.

Photo credit: James Sarmiento