A large part of what keeps me excited about the social web is the continuous stream of new technology, innovations and possibilities that reveal themselves on an almost daily basis.
This week was a perfect example. I don’t know if you caught any of it, but the BBC were getting very excited about the large number of jellyfish in UK waters this year. You can read about it here.
Ok, I can hear you. ‘So what!?’
A few years ago this wouldn’t have been much of a story. Fishermen would have reported a few sightings, scientists would have investigated and gathered a small amount of data in a localised area and make ‘projections’ (read: guesses) about what that meant for jellyfish numbers around the UK. Now, things are very different.
After the BBC ran this story, there was a spike in the number of people taking to Twitter and Instagram to post their photos of jellyfish in UK waters. #BarrelJellyfish (the species that the report focused on) was trending within a few hours.
So what does this mean? That people like photos of jellyfish and social media gives them a great way to share it? Well, yes, but the implications are far more wide reaching, and scientific, than that.
Geo Codes (and what they mean for jellyfish)
Buried deep in the Twitter API is a hook that allows third party applications to pull geo codes from every tweet you send. Put simply, this means that, with the right tool, you can segment tweets based on where they were sent from.
One application of this that I’ve mentioned before on this blog is local social media monitoring and listening using HootSuite’s Geo Search function. You simply set up a stream with some specific location parameters. This will then allow you to only listen to tweets that are sent from a particular geographical area. You can take this further by then drilling down so that you’re only listening to messages that contain certain words or hashtags within this specific area. In the right situation, this can be extremely powerful for businesses.
Here, the importance of this technology is a bit different. Imagine if you were to take this technology, which has been adopted almost solely by business users to this point, and applied it to science and conservation.
Simply by asking people to take photos of particular species of wildlife and posting them to Twitter or Instagram using a particular hashtag, scientists and conservationists could utilise the largest data pool they’ve ever had access to. They could segment sightings based on location, create real time maps of sightings and even track individual specimens as they make their way through UK waters. This a prime example how the concept of crowdsourcing and the social web can help to increase knowledge, save resources and promote social responsibility.
It’s exciting stuff!
This is just one example of how social media can be used to gather highly valuable information. The problem is, people need to know what to do with it. As much as this type of thing gets me excited, it also depresses me at how much useful data is being wasted each day. It’s only useful if there’s someone listening, monitoring and processing this data.
This is the same for your business. People are tweeting right now. They are searching for your services, asking their friends where they can find a company like yours. Hey, they might even be sending these tweets from just around the corner from you. But if you’re not listening to the right channels, or using the right tools, it’s not you they’ll be coming to!
Don’t let these opportunities pass you by. Start listening!