Twitter for Non-Tweeters
Twitter is a wonderful way to communicate quickly. For those in international development, it is a way to get information worldwide from governments, news outlets, academics, bloggers, and community leaders. No need to build an online presence. It is also a source of information from around the world.
There are many reasons to monitor Twitter:
- Find news on immediate events before the media reports them
- Explore ordinary people in conversation on cultural, social, sports, and political issues
- Follow your favorite opinion leaders, think tanks, and news outlets
- Scan the headlines or trends of the day in any country
- Track the actions of government or organizations
- Show transparency in government or with your organization
Track Breaking Events
If there is an earthquake in Mexico, the public will share information and photos before traditional news sources do. Neighborhood residents can share news and photos before reporters get on the scene. Twitter is usually faster than the media. Journalists often follow it to identify breaking news stories or potential sources.
Monitor Public Thinking
Twitter allows listening in on a conversation as if on the street or in a coffee shop. This can be done informally by tracking what is trending or from news sources by country or city. Word choice and language are important. Monitor what people say and how they say it. Those with large followings, like politicians, athletes, and celebrities, often frame a story and word choices that are helpful for communicators.
To monitor Twitter more actively, there are now many open-source applications that track Twitter conversations by topic, sentiment, and reach, which allows for analysis.
Twitter is fast and easier to use than other forms of communication. It is also better on mobile phones when there is limited internet bandwidth. The Nigerian National Emergency Management Agency uses Twitter to showcase aid along the route of emergency supplies in pictures and tweets. This is faster and less cumbersome than emails. All followers, including staff members, can transparently watch the movement of supplies. Staff could also reply to tweets, which became a faster communication method than emails or phone calls.
Violence or controversies move fast, and Twitter is the easiest way to track events. Kenya conflict mitigation teams monitor Twitter to identify potential hot spots and send teams to the location. Human rights groups also follow Twitter to identify what they must respond to and defend in real time. Emergency responders often use Twitter to identify rescue and aid needs in far-flung locations.
Respond to Journalists
Public officials or organization leaders can respond faster by writing 280 characters than by writing a press release. Journalists monitor Twitter, so they use this to get coverage in the first wave of media reports.
Follow Your Passion
For those of us with a wide variety of interests, it is easier to follow someone on Twitter with a limited commitment. It is fun to follow authors, thinkers, comedians, favorite magazines and journalists, and organizations from other countries.
The advantage of following favorite news sources, government leaders, and organizations is that it is easier to scan a newsfeed and see what they are posting without going to several different news sources.