Undergrads at the University of Virginia learned the power of social media in mid-April when the student newspaper tweeted a word of mouth rumor that dorms were being searched for alcohol . Yeah- imagine the panic. The aftermath of the hoax involved dumpsters full of beer cans and liquor bottles, a plethora of official statements, and the Dean of Students engaged in an argument on Twitter about Constitutional interpretation. The story was picked up by the Washington Post that afternoon and for a time was featured as the “most read online” article.
BREAKING: Reports of randomized dorm searches coming in.
— The Cavalier Daily (@cavalierdaily) April 8, 2013
To promote more exercise random 'dorm raids' will occur so students will sprint to their rooms. Stay healthy my friends #uvadormsearch
— Kevin Rankin (@KORankin) April 8, 2013
Good news:There's Days on the Lawn today.Seeing first-years pouring alcohol everywhere mid-day has gotta impress prospectives #UVADormSearch
— Brian Schwartz (@BSchwartzUVA) April 8, 2013
Well now I'm disappointed. The effect of gallons of cheap vodka poured onto the Lawn would've been an interesting experiment. #UVAdormsearch
— Kia Soulja Boy is presented by Kia, the offical sp (@ALargerQuiver) April 8, 2013
In addition to being totally hilarious, this is a great example of the raw potential contained in a single tweet. While this is not the way that UVA would like to get its publicity, the University still made it to the online front page of the Washington Post all due to a tweet. Had this been a purely offline scenario, there is no way the story would have made it as far as it did. Another reason it got coverage is because it was handled in a humorous manner. It made everyone chuckle, particularly the pictures and so it got retweeted. It was also in the middle of the work day so many people were on Twitter looking for a bit of distraction. Hmmmm…. what does this remind us of? Yep- The Great Super Bowl Blackout and the now legendary “Oreo Tweet” or as Slate calls it, “The Half-Decent Oreo Tweet that Dazzled a Nation” Right place, right time. That’s the new game in town.
So I guess the lesson here is two-fold. Obviously beware of posting rumors online but come on- we’re millennials. One of the earliest sites I remember was rumors.com. So I like to think of the other lesson. The potential for the positive. We’ve seen twitter used in amazing ways. Most recently during the Boston Bombing. Victims turned to crowdsourcing to raise money. Twitter was also used to get people places to stay for that night, free food, internet, and reconnect with loved ones. My absolute favorite story, however, is the exchange that occurred between Syrians and Bostonians. The pictures quickly went viral. What an amazing connection. That’s the power of a tweet.
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