If you’re based in London you probably know the disruption and frustration caused when there is a strike on the Tube – especially more so as the strikes are often timed to cause maximum impact on journeys to and from work. If you are based out of London you probably care less. But for all people the current strike that started today is a good example of how broadcasters are using social media both as an information source but also as a broadcast medium.
Image by jamesmellor via Flickr
BBC London News (@BBCLondonNews) has been using Twitter for some time as a source information, comment and research for pieces. Most notably through certain reporters such as Matt Cooke (@MattCooke_UK) who have built a presence on Twitter. This is a common use of social media among news organisations, and we wrote last year about the benefits (and challenges) of user-generated news. But with this Tube Strike, BBC London News are doing some things different and truly experimenting with social media.
The are of course doing the basics – they are using and promoting the #TubeStrike hashtag, and reporters such as Cooke are sharing information, photos and retweeting other comments about the strike. They are sourcing photos through social media and sourcing stories and information about the strikes and the impact on commuters the same way.
Perhaps more exciting, however, is how they are then presenting this information back to people and how they are using social media to broadcast information and news about the strike.
The BBC is experimenting with social media to map and report on the tube strike and the impact it is having: the London Tube Strike Map. As with other such maps, they are plotting information shared on Twitter using the #TubeStrike hashtag, and they are also including audioboos with the same tag. But where they are leveraging the reach and power of the BBC is to combine these social media sources with more traditional sources – you can submit information by text, email and by filling in a form on the site too.
This is a simple tool but can be an effective one and its use will become more obvious as we enter the second day of the strikes and more content is added. What BBC London is doing is experimenting with different ways of both sourcing and then presenting information and news. It is using social media in the way that many of its viewers are doing and providing them a real service. We already know that many people will be using Twitter as a search engine to find out information about how their journey to work is being affected by the strike. BBC London is bringing this information together in one place and, perhaps critically, combining it with information it sources from other places.
Organisations like the BBC should be experimenting with social media where there is a clear benefit for their audience of doing this. If it works and attracts a sizeable and relevant audience then they can develop these tools and experiments to enhance the news and travel coverage they currently provide. With the London Tube Strike Map they are moving beyond sourcing information and research through social media, to using it as an integral part of their reporting and information provision. If the experiment works it could provide a model for how news organisations can provide such information in the future.