These numbers are impressive and show the power of Twitter. How often do Statesman stories reach almost 1.5 million people in one day? I’m guessing never (their daily print circulation is about 140,000). But what else does this information tell us?
What We Can Learn
These data demonstrate the potential impact of someone in the right place at the right time (remember the first Twitpic of the US Air plane that landed in the Hudson?). As a well-respected newspaper, the Statesman was already positioned as the go-to news source for Austin area current events. But over the past few years, they’ve built a loyal following on Twitter of people who are eager to contribute to the news process. People send photos and updates to the @statesman, essentially expanding the paper’s news staff. And by making their Twitter updates consistently relevant and timely, the @statesman is insuring that they’ll be retweeted when something like this happens, drastically expanding their circulation.
These data also reiterate the importance and potential pitfalls of real-time news. If no one cared what was happening on campus, then no one would retweet the @statesman’s updates. But people do care; we demand information in real time, especially when something scary is happening. And we’ve all heard what the 24-hour news cycle does to news – stories are rushed out before being fact-checked or properly edited, stories that aren’t actually news are published just to fill space, sources are faked to get information out as soon as possible.
Finally, these data are a good reminder that you never know when something like this will happen. You need to be prepared. If you work at a news outlet (or any company or business, really), build your following now. Start measuring your impact now. You can’t suddenly have the reputation of the @statesman; that has taken them more than three years of dedicated effort to achieve. And you can’t go back and measure certain kinds of Twitter activity after it’s happened. Once it’s passed, it’s gone. The real-time speed of social media means that events can flare up and then flame out in just a few hours.
Fortunately, no one besides the shooter was killed at UT on September 28. But on that day, when no one knew what was going on and many people were assuming the worst, Twitter and the @statesman helped communicate vital information to those who needed it.
*If you want to learn more about how we calculate and define our metrics, including reach and exposure, read this.