Monday, April 18, 2011

TV Meteorologist Thrives In Social Media Tornado

From Cory Bergman, lost

To get an idea of the popularity of James Spann, all you have to do is look at his Facebook and Twitter accounts. As far as I can tell, Spann has more combined Twitter fans (19,837) and Facebook followers (42,376) than any local TV talent in the country. For a meteorologist in Birmingham, Alabama — the nation’s 40th TV market — that’s downright impressive.

As tornadoes swirled through Alabama today, Spann was live on ABC 33/40, two radio stations and UStream, tracking storms (like “bullets from a gun,” he said) and urging residents to take cover. While on the air, Spann wasn’t able to post on Facebook or Twitter very often, but the social conversation around him was a storm of its own — and he kept an eye on it on his laptop.

On both Facebook and Twitter, fans and viewers sent him a steady stream of messages — sometimes several per minute — of damage reports, weather questions and general praise. If you were looking for citizen reports about the tornado, all you had to do was look on his Facebook Wall or search for @spann on Twitter. Here are five tweets in one minute:

And this went on for hours. His Facebook page has well over a hundred updates, from short weather updates to dozens of photos and videos. Occasionally on air, Spann would refer to a damage report — even punching up photos from Facebook on his Mac, which was wired straight to TV. At one point, ABC 33/40′s radar crashed, and Spann just punched up a web-based radar on his laptop.
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