Handling “TheSituation”: Using Twitter During the Nashville Snow Storm of 2010

Posted on February 1, 2010


To be honest, I was a late arrival to Twitter because I never really got it. I had a twitter account but rarely used it until recently. Even so, I was never addicted to it.

Well, that changed this past weekend.
On Friday, I, like many people, was blanketed with a snowstorm that people call the “I-40 Storm” because it affected states along the Interstate 40 corridor. Because the local stations were running informericals, bad talk shows, game shows, I had zero news so I turned to Twitter.
Let me move back a couple of days. The city of Nashville was warned about the storm and the potential impact on the city. A local blog called “Nashvillest” riffed off a statement from NashvilleWX.com who called the potential storm a “Ice/Snow Situation”. So the blog decided to refer to the storm as “TheSituation2010”.
I instantly loved the name.
Of course, the name has gained “fame” through the idiot from the MTV show “Jersey Show”, who calls himself “The Situation”.
But when it came to the snowstorm. “TheSituation2010” stuck. Come Friday morning, I was checking Twitter and had a Firefox tab devoted to a Twitter search page for all tweets with the hashtag “TheSituation2010”. There were other names “SnOMG”, Snowapolyce, Snowapolopa. But frankly, I hated all three of those names. But for a brief time, “Nashville” was a Worldwide Trending Topic on Twitter.
In the morning, people reported where it was snowing and where it was not. They also reported what businesses were closing early. I was in an area that not no snow until mid-morning and my office did not close until 1 p.m. By that time, there was 2 inches of snow on the ground. From mid-morning to afternoon, people were reporting on traffic conditions on surface streets and interstates.
Because of the hashtag, everything I saw on the news seemed like a repeat. I knew there was an accident on the Interstate. I knew that a university was closing about 10 minutes before I saw it on television.
A community sprung up around this organic hashtag. This community shared its experiences, its photos, its videos with each other. Throughout the night, people posted pictures and shared how they were going to spend the storm. A Facebook Fan page was created and people began cross-posting photos there as well.
Individuals used the hashtag.
The local newspaper used the hashtag.
The next day, the local Borders Bookstore  used the hashtag.
It is amazing that something that began from a blog post became so big that someone created a t-shirt.
Lessons that I have learned about social media through TheSituation2010:
1. The best social media is bottom up.
2. Although there were some people trying to use the hashtag for their own purposes (if you are snowed in, watch this on TV, etc), there was not a lot of it. If it became a Trending Topic, would there be “spammers” attempt to take over the channel and render it useless?
Societrends suggests that a possible solution:
Then again, anyone can put a hashtag in a tweet, so spammers could jump on a local weather Twitter feed during a weather event, like a snow storm, and hijack the updates. That’s why establishing a list of approved tweeters might make more sense, because you can present tweeters the rest of us could follow during a weather event, knowing we’ll get hyperlocal weather updates in real-time.
They were talking about people like The Weather Channel could do this for weather updates on Twitter. But part of the reason why I followed the hashtag was because I could contribute to the feed. I could have information or pictures that would benefit someone else.
3. Immediate news events makes Twitter the most useful. As shown in the Iranian Election, Twitter is a tool for “street journalism“. It gets news to the most number of people in the quickest possible time. Most of the time before you see it on newspaper websites and television news.
4. A lot of what I saw on Twitter was correct before I could verify it. For example, there was a tweet from someone saying that a college would close a 1 p.m., 15 minutes before I got an email telling me that the college was indeed closing. How that people knew? I had no idea. But they were on the money.
Posted in: Internet