Locating Sheffield on the increasingly-popular microblogging site
I was thinking a few months ago about the presence of Sheffield-based people and organisations on microblogging site Twitter. As an investigative exercise, I decided to include a Tweetscan feed of tweets that mention Sheffield in my reader software. Here is a quick summary of the sort of stuff that has been cropping up:
- Football is a recurring theme, with tweets from established news organisations linking back to their stories and the occasional update from fans
- Travellers to and from Sheffield – particularly by train – seem to like to announce their arrival into the city with a tweet
- Weather updates also feature predominantly…I guess the nation’s favourite pastime is the same in a web 2.0 world
- Promotions for various events, products and job vacancies also crop up, something that I expect we will see more of as organisations exploit the commercial potential of Twitter
- Gary Sheffield, the Detroit Tigers designated hitter seems to be a popular tweet topic, with items from the American press
Looking through the list of users on Twitter who have declared that their location is Sheffield (as I write, a total of 306), it seems that many of them have a major interest in the internet/web 2.0/digital technologies/the semantic web. My experience of Twitter would say that this also rings true for the application’s users as a whole: many Twitterers do seem to be self-proclaimed ‘web gurus’ and as such are compelled to tweet about technology in preference to their own lives.
There is nothing wrong with this – and maybe for them the two are inseparable – but in order for Twitter to fully break into the mainstream, the breadth of the user base needs to widen and the topics covered need to diversify. For me, social media is not using these websites and applications to solely discuss social media, it is using social media to interact with people and topics you are interested in, ones that aren’t necessarily related to the actual medium you are using.
There is also a risk that this microblogging service starts to mirror the tedious “echo chamber” effect that tarnishes so many otherwise reputable blogs.
People use other social networking sites for status updates initially see Twitter as no more than a duplication of this, but it has subtle differences, including the dialogue between users as you reply publicly to other tweets, which is encouraged. As well as being immensely useful for journalists, another strength of Twitter is the use of SMS; for alerts when people send a tweet and also to respond when you are on-the-move.
If you choose to follow the right users, you can effectively sign up for free text message updates on topics and people that you are interested in. Hence organisations and companies are catching on to this, seeing it as a publishing platform and slowly creating their own Twitter accounts. I read this week that Stratford-on-Avon council has launched its own Twitter account, and a few months ago 10 Downing Street received quite a bit of publicity when it started Twittering.
So, back to Sheffield on Twitter. As far as I can see, combining Sheffield Tweetscan with users based in the city is the best way to build up a picture of Sheffield Twitter users and tweets. This is pretty primitive though, as obviously not all messages derived from one location will necessarily mention that name, and not all users from Sheffield will have necessarily specified their location.
For what it is worth, I have created a page of interesting Sheffield-based Twitter users (mainly organisations). Anyone know of any more?