Somebody once observed of Londoners that whenever some great catastrophe befalls the city, our first reaction is to mentally calculate how we need to reroute our journey through the complex public transport system. A nuclear missile strike on Victoria Station? That’s awful – I’ll have to get a bus to Waterloo!
Twitter has become an incredibly useful tool for the city’s inhabitants to spread word of any potential problems, partly to warn fellow commuters of delays, but mostly because we love complaining.
Just last week I was returning to the office after a conference and spotted that London Bridge was closed off with a heavy police presence and crowds of onlookers, which meant two things: something interesting was occurring, and rush hour delays were inevitable. So I posted my own little Public Service Announcement on Twitter, as did many others.
There were over 1,200 Twitter mentions of London Bridge on that day (around three times as many of the typical daily volume) which reached a total of 20.4 million users, according to analysis with Sysomos MAP. 46 percent of those mentions were regular tweets, while 43 percent were retweets and 11 percent were @ replies.
As we can see from the above timeline, there was a spike in mentions of London Bridge peaking at around 5pm and tailing off through the rest of the evening. The reason for the bridge closure becomes clear when we look at a word cloud of the text used in those tweets; a suspect package leading to a bomb scare, later revealed to be nothing more sinister than an abandoned lunchbox.
If the word cloud gave us the overall picture of what was happening, the Buzzgraph chart shows us what Londoners were most concerned about; the words “delayed” and “delays” appear to be at the centre of most conversations. But we can also see another issue buried in this discussion. As well as the closure of London Bridge itself, there were also problems at London Bridge rail station, with a trespasser on the tracks causing delays to trains coming in and out of the transport hub.
By looking at an analysis of the influencer communities involved in the conversation, we can see who’s spreading the news most effectively.
The three main clusters here are:
- Blue: mostly national news media, and high authority users sharing their stories
- Orange: various dedicated travel update services, as well as other official channels such as the Metropolitan Police – according to our analysis these are the most authoritative voices around this issue
- Green: popular London focused blogs
On top of this there are also a few smaller communities of authoritative Twitter users sharing their own updates and commentary on the story.
London was one of the first cities to really embrace Twitter in its early years, and continues to have a strong community of users, so it’s no surprise that the platform has grown to become an essential channel for sharing updates about what’s happening in the city. And, when things go wrong from time to time, Londoners love nothing more than to crack jokes about the situation: