“Tweeters are only as good as the people they follow.” Dr Claire Wardle, Social Media at the BBC

Hundreds of people who sign up to twitter follow a few celebrity-types for a while, feel slightly embarrassed for unleashing their inner stalker and come away thinking, “I just don’t get it.”

In an energetic and engaging lecture by Dr Claire Wardle, who works at the BBC in their social media department, she demonstrated easy ways to make Twitter work for you. Two really useful websites she suggested were www.tweepml.org and www.twittergrader.com.

On tweepml.org you can mass select people in certain professions, allowing you to easily follow people who will have something to say about topics that interest you. At twittergrader.com you can discover what the top tweeters are in your area, which is a great source of local information.

In Britain’s news bubble London and Westminster are the centre of the world, so Twitter and blogs give a voice to people who are under represented in mainstream journalism. (See: www.pinknews.co.uk and www.muslimmatters.org). If journalists can engage positively with social media they will be able to produce work that better reflects the diversity of the population.

If you don’t believe me, and let’s face it why would you, here’s Claire Wardle: “Social media helps journalists tell better more varied stories, develop stronger relationships with existing audiences, as well as reaching and connecting with new audiences.”

Twitter is not just a mere tool for journalists; it has become part of how stories are told. Twitter is continuously the first to break news; during the Iranian elections, with other forms of communication blocked, the people shared their story with the world through Twitter.

This, however, wasn’t really down to awesome power of twitter. Iran’s authoritarian leaders were just a bit slow on the up-take. It does go to show though that authorities and organisations, including the media, have been desperately slow to realise the significance of social media and to react to it.

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An environmental journalist and communications trainer, Bethan specialises in nature conservation and social justice

Posted in Media

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