Wednesday, 6 May 2009

After the swine flu outbreak can anyone doubt the place of Twitter?

For a large chunk of the population, Twitter was the first place they heard about the swine flu outbreak. In fact, on the same day that the story broke on TV, twittering journalists were already placing bets on who would get “Aporkalypse” or “Snoutbreak” into headlines the following day. Is this proof that Twitter is becoming the communication tool of choice?

The general public is getting more and more impatient – after all, we are used to getting anything we want, when we want it (and that means now!). We treat communicating as just another consumer commodity. Thanks to the internet, we can get everything in an instant – from our weekly shop to one off, handmade handbags. Importantly, this applies to information too – we want the news straight away and increasingly we want to know everything about a person, especially if that person happens to be a celebrity. The difference now is that we don’t want to waste our time searching on Google or reading websites, we want it to be interactive and sent directly to us.

This is where Twitter comes in and like all trends, some people love it and some people hate it. Whatever your feelings, the swine flu outbreak has shown us that Twitter isn’t going away. Within seconds of the outbreak, Twitter was receiving 20 tweets about the topic, every ten seconds. Whilst newspapers were getting their heads around a potential pandemic, Twitter had already gone long past red alert, with more jokers than scare mongers (typical tweets include “at what stage in the symptoms do victims start feeling pinky and perky?”)

There have been accusations that Twitter was doing more to misinform than calm the masses – but can’t the same be said of traditional media? After all, the red tops were happy to claim that this really was the end of all humanity. With such a huge news story which affects the whole population, the real demand behind Twitter has been revealed - like a good consumer, you try to digest as much as you can possibly handle whilst passing on the need for others to do just the same. Trends might shift again as we come out of the credit crunch, but until that time the PR and media industry can’t ignore the place of Twitter.


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