Yesterday started as just another normal day at work for me but it soon turned into a bit of a disaster and I got to see and think about how social media can be used by media organisations and the general public positively. I work as a sales assistant at Oasis in Kingston  upon Thames and yesterday we were evacuated from our building from 1:30 pm to 5pm due to a fire on the street behind ours. The fire took place in an office above “The Party Shop” in Kingston and due to us sharing the same roof space and there being the risk of explosion it was vital that all customers and staff were evacuated. The story was covered by a number of publications including The River, The Surrey Comet, BBC news, and The Kingston Guardian.

Many of the images featured in these news stories will probably have come from the people at the scene using Twitter and Facebook to post images and status updates such as these:



The use of social media was the only reason that other members of staff new about our evacuation and what was going on with our store. Social media can be used for positive reasons and help news organisations gain knowledge, sources and brilliant images without needing to be on the scene right away. It’s so important that we make the most of our ever-changing technology and the digital world.


The impact of social media

As I mentioned in my previous post about citizen journalism the internet and social media has the ability to change mainstream journalism and the way we access our news. Social media is forever changing and evolving making it difficult to keep up with it and find ways to use it effectively.

However, Nic Newman states in his 2009 study “The rise of social media and its impact on mainstream journalism”, that there are three main reasons behind mainstream news outlets getting on board with social media:

  • Telling better stories: Building on Dan Gillmor’s insight10 that there is always someone who knows more than you do, news organisations are crowdsourcing comments, pictures, videos insights and ideas. This supplements and complements their own newsgathering sources and enriches their output.
  • Making better relationships: Engaged users tend to be more loyal and spend more time, making them more valuable to advertisers or for promoting and selling other company services.
  • Getting new users in: With audiences spending more and more time withsocialnetworks,11 thesehavebecometheobviousplacetolook for the ‘hard to reach’ or reconnect with former loyalists. 

In my personal opinion, I think it’s great that big media organisations are using social media to their advantage rather than letting the changing technology scare them. It’s good that they’re working with the new technologies rather than against them as the use of social media can be so effective in hearing about new stories the minute they happen, gaining sources and images direct from scenes and engaging with their audiences.

On the other hand, it is important to remember that social media isn’t always a positive experience. Many media organisations are using social media and UGC allowing their readers to comment on news stories, blogs and anything else on their websites. Now, this can be a truly positive and a great thing to do when you get people interacting with the organisation and each other, sharing thoughts, opinions and stories. But there is always the possibility that there will be a few less than helpful comments from people that feel the need to share their views offensively.  It’s important to monitor the UGC received from using social media in order to make news organisation websites as effective as possible.

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