Twitter broke Ebola news three days ahead of official announcement
Twitter, the hugely popular micro-blogging site, broke one of the biggest news stories of 2014, according to a new study.
Researchers in the US revealed that Tweets about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa were published at least three days before official announcements were made.
Ebola spreads through human-to-human contact and has a fatality rate of 50 per cent, according to the World Health Organisation.
Sierra Leone was the country worst affected by last year’s epidemic, with almost 13,000 cases recorded by the Centre for Disease Control, resulting in 3,912 deaths.
Cheap smartphones fuel African Twitter growth
The availability of cheaper smartphones has led to the widespread take-up of social media in Africa, which made Twitter a vital source of information during the Ebola crisis.
In Nigeria, another country at the centre of the outbreak, researchers identified 1,500 Ebola-related tweets before the Nigerian health ministry made a formal announcement.
“Twitter adoption in African countries like Nigeria has been exponentially increasing and it’s clear that Twitter is a useful resource for spreading breaking health news in these West African countries,” the researchers said in an article for the American Journal of Infection Control.
“The results of this analysis indicate how Twitter can be used to support early warning systems in outbreak surveillance efforts in settings where surveillance systems are not optimal.”
Twitter wooing journalists
Twitter is keen to establish itself as a serious player in the creation and dissemination of news. In the Twitter review of 2014, it highlighted its role in the year’s major news stories from race riots in the US to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Twitter has also created various tools for journalists to encourage them to use the service to research and then promote their content.
But just as Twitter has made life easier for journalists, critics would argue that it has helped keep them at their desks rather than out on the beat talking to real people. Combined with the economic pressures on newspapers, Twitter and other social media sites have been accused of replacing the skills – wit, personal contacts and instincts – that journalists once relied upon.
Twitter for content marketers
With more and more brands employing journalists or looking for other ways to get into content marketing, Twitter can be a extremely useful tool.
From researching the sorts of conversations your target audience are having to finding the influencers who can help get your content in front of more of the right people, Twitter can add real value to your content marketing strategy.
This is especially true if you’re creating your news stories about what’s been happening in your particular niche. Twitter is great for promoting content on trending topics, especially as more and more people turn to social media to find news stories they might want to read and share.