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Alton Towers smash shows social media power

Alton Towers smash shows social media power

04 June 2015 | Abbie-Jaye Wilson

This week at Alton Towers four people were left with life changing injuries when The Smiler rollercoaster they were in crashed into an empty carriage.

Around the UK there was a collective gasp as people absorbed the news and thoughts turned to those left facing a new future thanks to the terrible accident.

But the crash not only highlighted the dangers of riding a rollercoaster. Oh no. It also demonstrated something else, and that was the power of social media.

I think by now we are all acutely aware of the impact one Tweet can have – just ask Sally Bercow.

However the immediacy with which one Tweet can snowball sometimes gets overlooked and I think this incident truly highlighted how social media has changed our lives.

There are two sides to how this was proven by the Alton Towers incident.

The first that stood out was the speed of reaction to some Tweets by the media. Now being a former journalist I’m no stranger to sending an awkward message or Tweet to someone and the media reporting on the Alton Towers accident were no different.

Once they spotted someone Tweeting about the incident they were there messaging them, arranging to meet them, call them, etc.

Now for those who haven’t worked with – or as – the media the speed with which this happened will be surprising. But it highlights how powerful social media is when it comes to breaking news.

The other side to this is people or businesses trying to ‘piggy back’ on the publicity. Those companies that decided to join in the hashtag on Twitter to drive some traffic to their website.

The biggest failure appeared to be Broad Yorkshire Law, a personal accident firm that sent out a Tweet saying: “Been injured in a roller coaster crash?! We’re experts in Personal Injury!! #Smiler #AltonTowers”.

On some occasions joining a conversation and utilising popular hashtags would be advisable, it can drive attention to your business and website, possibly build contacts and start working relationships.

In this case however it is not advisable and the ultimate in PR mistakes. People have slammed the company for its attempt at publicity and the business was called ‘ambulance chasers’ and vultures.

In the world of PR some people think any publicity is good, let’s hope Broad Yorkshire Law are of that school of thought, because right now the apparent ‘lack of respect’ they showed has not only brought them into disrepute but highlighted the negative side of the entire compensation culture.