3 news stories that appeared on Twitter before mainstream media

With 316 million users sending half a billion messages everyday, the importance of Twitter from a communications point of view can't be ignored. Regardless of the industry your organisation operates in, there's an enormous user base ready and willing to engage with brands that play their cards right.  

Social media analytics may be able to help you identify your key influencers and report the types of content they engage with, usage trends among your target audience and a range of other metrics that can ultimately increase your brand's exposure.  

However, it's not only consumers who are using Twitter on a daily basis. The platform's instantaneous nature, combined with the fact that anybody can effectively 'report' on the goings on around them at any time, means that Twitter has rapidly emerged as an indispensable tool in the news world. Increasingly, journalists, reporters and other media professionals are using the micro blogging service to get the scoop on stories as and when they break.  

Journalists use Twitter ever day to research stories and locate sources.

In fact, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford did a comprehensive examination of 135 journalists to determine just how pervasive Twitter use has become in the news room. The study found that of the 135 participants, 80 used social media on a daily basis to conduct research, develop contacts, search for interviewees and sniff out potential sources.  

This particular piece of research was carried out in 2010, and it's easy to imagine that the media relies even more heavily on social platforms today.  

These statistics support the notion that the scope of news sources is widening, and this affects all communication professionals who are looking for ways to help their organisation's news pieces gain traction. While professional press release distribution services are still usually the most effective way of getting information into the public eye in a timely manner, there have been a few instances when major news stories broke out on Twitter before they were picked up by major media outlets.  

Here are three of the most notable:  

Boston Bombing

On April 15, 2013, the Boston Marathon ended in tragic fashion when multiple bombs were set off near the finishing line, killing three and injuring more than 260 others, according to CBS News. With so many at the scene of the explosions - perhaps with smartphones already in hand, ready to take snaps of the runners - it may come as little surprise to learn that news of the event first broke on Twitter.

In fact, the social media platform proved itself as a valid journalistic tool throughout the disaster, with reporters on the ground publishing constant updates of what was happening in the city. The event quickly saturated news sources, as social media monitoring services could have showed. The number of Boston-related tweets hit six million on the day of the disaster.

Staff members of the Boston Globe, the city's newspaper, were taking part in the marathon and they quickly transitioned from running into news coverage, according to Twitter, further demonstrating the flexible and dynamic nature of the platform. The newspaper sent out 150 tweets on the day of the bombing (up from an average of 40 tweets per day), with both their social account and website commanding an incredible amount of traffic in the days that followed. 

Whitney Houston's death  

Singer and actress Whitney Houston's passed away on February 11, 2012. Celebrity deaths naturally attract a lot of attention, and as a result the events are often covered extensively by media outlets. What was different about Whitney Houston's death, however, is that the news first broke on Twitter.  

Business Insider explained that Brittany J. Pullard (@BarBeeBrit), a frequent figure in the Hollywood nightclub scene, tweeted the news of the pop star's death an hour before Whitney Houston's publicist issued an official statement confirming the tragic event. You can see the tweet below:  

Is Whitney Houston really dead?

— Brittany J Pullard (@BarBeeBritt) February 12, 2012

Details never surfaced about how Ms Pullard gained knowledge of Whitney Houston's death, but the news quickly went viral once pop culture heavyweights such as Katy Perry, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj retweeted the official press release.  

Twitter goes public

While most companies announce their stock market launch via conventional press release distribution channels, Twitter did something a little different. Leveraging the very technology that has enabled it to succeed, on September 12, 2013 the company tweeted that it had filed for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

We've confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned IPO. This Tweet does not constitute an offer of any securities for sale.

— Twitter (@twitter) September 12, 2013

This highlighted the ever-changing relationship between new and old media and was another step forward for Twitter proving itself as a legitimate and valuable news source.

In summary, Twitter continues to play an important role in the lives of both consumers and journalists. Communications professionals who make use of media monitoring tools may be able to identify their key influencers and increase the chance of their news stories gaining traction in the digital sphere.  

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