Watching Local News go Viral

screenshot of twitter reactionWe live in a new world. A world in which local decisions made by very small groups can go viral, can be spread by a variety of social media tools, and can even reach global and unintended audiences. We are no longer private or anonymous! I watched just this thing unfold last Thursday at my library’s Board of Trustees meeting.

We Went Viral

By now, some of you have probably heard about the decision my library’s Board of Trustees made last Thursday regarding restricting access to four books in our collection. By the end of the evening, our very local library board meeting was the 7th hottest “trend” in Twitter.

I had decided to tweet the board meeting – I posted play-by-play public comments made by people in the community and the deliberations of the board on a hot topic. I used #tscpl as a hashtag, since I wanted to provide an easy way for people to follow the meeting as it progressed.

Camera Crews Getting Set UpAnd I started tweeting. I took photos of the local TV news vehicles lined up outside the library and a few pics of the meeting, and posted them to Twitter via the TwitPic service (a service that lets you easily share photos on Twitter). Jim Ogle, general manager at a local TV station (and cool tweep at @jimogle), was also present and tweeting at the meeting, as were a few other Twitter users.

Who followed the conversation? Local Topekans who weren’t at the meeting were following. Library staff that worked the evening shift were following along, too. Since I have my tweets linked to my Facebook status, Facebook friends were also following and participating by making comments and asking questions. Other librarians were following the meeting, as well.

In other news, I trended in twitterAt some point in the evening, our hashtag, #tscpl,”trended” on Twitter. What’s trending? “Trending topics on Twitter are keywords that happen to be popping up in a whole bunch of tweets. We measure these topics and adjust them in real-time throughout the day. It’s a great way of finding out what’s happening right now.” – from Twitter’s blog.

And like I said, we were the 7th hottest trend for a while – sure wish I had a screenshot of that! The screenshot I DID get is from my iPhone, capturing some Twitter Trend-watching services that noticed our hashtag was trending.

We Went Global

The next day, the conversation continued, and it went global. People continued tweeting about the meeting and the decision, and I posted news stories as I found them. An AP reporter was at the Thursday meeting, so we made the AP newswire… and we quickly made the USAToday, the International Herald Tribune, and the Taipei Times, of all places. And of course the usual libraryrelated news sites noticed.

Some unintended but interesting sites: two adult industry news sites (found via twitter searches for tscpl and topeka), some book industry news sites, and a children’s rights group. With some of these, I’m guessing they follow a combination of keyword searches and RSS feeds – they primarily picked up the AP story.

The conversation on those sites is continuing, since many of them allow comments on each article! It’s actually quite interesting to compare the local comments on the Topeka newspaper story to the comments on the USAToday story (98 comments so far).

We’re No Longer Private

What’s this all mean? That Twitter works great as a real-time information spreader and conversation starter. That people are interested even in seemingly local stuff. That … yes … even your small library board meeting is no longer private.

The WORLD is watching.