21st Century media professionals face a challenging task: they must be ‘anywhere, anytime, on any platform’ (Stassen, 2010) in a world increasingly saturated with social media. Using, understanding, and utilising Twitter and Twitter-based tools is exponentially important for modern media professionals as the former ‘audience’ becomes involved in the news process, with Twitter-based tool Bottlenose enabling new insights through audience opinion, interactivity, story research and generation, content promotion and news immediacy. Stassen argues that Twitter and associated tools have become not only a place for disseminating news but a source of information, ‘people want information in short, sharp bursts – and as quickly as possible’ (Stassen, 2010). No news story exists in isolation anymore as media professionals use tools like Bottlenose to link topics, source material and publish; consequently, media professionals are shifting from manufacturing news to moderating conversation (Jarvis, Networked Journalism, 2006). Jarvis concludes that media professionals should embrace advances in social media tracking and its place in the news cycle: ‘journalism is a collaborative venture. Journalism is a network.’ (Jarvis, Networked Journalism, 2006)
Bottlenose is a web-based tool with about 60,000 registered users currently in third version and recently updated to beta1. Bottlenose links Twitter, Facebook, Buffer2, LinkedIn, Google Reader and RSS feeds to filter, aggregate and prioritise feeds in one place so users can keep up with messages, networks and trends more productively than when using separate social media platforms. A tool for breaking news, Bottlenose affords several features particularly useful for a 21C media professional including live streams of trends, a real-time3 search function and several in-built apps. The interactivity between these functions separates Bottlenose from other Twitter-based tools and creates a global connection of topics, people and media, with CEO Nova Spivack comparing Bottlenose and social networks to ‘what Google did for the Web’4 in his blog5. In a world where immediacy, accuracy and trending information is critical to media consumers (Stassen, 2010), Bottlenose enables media professionals to reach beyond the conventional in one place6.
This ‘discovery engine’7 is offered in both a free public and a paid ‘Pro’ version. The free version and corresponding tutorial8 are available without registering and afford a wide range of actions. However, the Pro version has more features and greater functionality – including a larger storage allowance, the ability to add several types of streams and accounts, and automatic archiving of social media messages – which Spivack argues would generally only be required by media and business professionals. Spivack also recommends that users register when utilising the free version to allow access to the dashboard: the control page where public and private messages are stored and constantly updated streams of topics are displayed for selected interests (Figure 1).
Bottlenose automatically detects trending topics pertinent to a users interests and chronologically streams these posts and messages, even when sourced across various platforms. The filtering of these streams is enhanced by observing interests and past viewing habits, although filters can be input by the user if desired by ‘following’9 other users, pages or interests from any of the supported platforms. Unfortunately, the free version only stores a finite number of messages, and thus new will push older out of the stream. This becomes a problem for media professionals when subscribed to numerous interests, streams or users as messages will disappear quickly and be missed. Thus, affording a chronological and constantly updated stream is both a pro and con.
One particularly confining constraint is the 140 character limit that applies to the creation and display of posts. This constraint is both a pro and con for media professionals: in ensuring Bottlenose conforms to Twitter standards, posts that are written and shared on other platforms like Facebook – which supports much longer posts – may not be as well received or convey the intended information; conversely, using a Twitter-based format allows the use of hyperlinks10, @naming11 and #hashtags12 for posts and searches. Stassen also argues that restrictive, shorter messages reach audiences far quicker than traditional media and formats as ‘the user gets up-to-date info without having to wait’ (Stassen, 2010).
Posts created or shared by users can be broadcast in a public post on any of the available platforms, privately to selected people or places, or sent in a direct message to another user(Figure 2). This function ensures Bottlenose is a useful tool for not only gathering information and data analysis but for breaking news and audience reach through your personal posts or public sharing, ‘your users will distribute you. Developers will build and improve you. You can reach critical mass quickly and inexpensively.’ (Jarvis, The responsibilities and opportunities of the platform, 2012) Although users are technically constrained to post on the platforms supported by the user interface, multiple accounts from one platform or social media can be added, for example three Twitter accounts.
A Pod of Apps: Intelligent, Instant and Inspired
Bottlenose’s search engine13 gathers information from all supported platforms and applies a complex algorithm to display topics in order of importance, thus streamlining social media feeds across platforms. Once a topic is searched, the top links, topics, people and comments are displayed in separate sections, making the page easy to navigate, follow topics and find information. (Figure 3). The search page also shows the top fourteen trending topics and hashtags for each category – featured, news, life, sports, politics, money and technology.
Several apps within Bottlenose work alongside the search engine to make consuming trending content simple and enhance understanding, aesthetics and engagement. Sonar14 visually maps trends to give an overview of topic discussion and interrelations; the paper function will sort topics into a newspaper style layout to display global trends in real time; and the pictures app sources trending images for any given topic. (Figure 4)
Bottlenose’s sonar function is an important tool for understanding what is trending, its context, and the relations between topics without having to search, skim or read every message. Technically, sonar affords the media professional the ability to detect trending concepts and their connections through real-time processing and analytics, displaying this in a simple map format (Figure 5). Apps like sonar are exponentially important as the media becomes increasingly designed and facilitated by the connections and interactions between users and information (Stassen, 2010). Beyond giving a grounded overview of topics, their context and how they are trending relative to each other, sonar becomes a design-preferred allowance through the ability to click on any trend and subscribe to it in the streams dashboard, bringing up conversations surrounding the original message. Thus, the search engine and varied apps work together to become a particularly useful tool for a media professionals in gathering trending and breaking news leads, background information and contextual links.
Bottlenose In Context: Uses for Media Professionals
Bottlenose gives the public a platform to view what Jarvis dubs an ‘unvarnished world’ (Jarvis, Without Mediation, 2012). By stacking unfiltered content in one place, Bottlenose not only creates a database of witnesses, comment, opinion and fact for media professionals and the public, but allows content to reach thousands instantaneously and ‘unvarnished’. Stassen argues that media professionals need to support and embrace this ‘democratisation of knowledge and information’ through the creation and exchange of user-generated content (Stassen, 2010).
Bottlenose, unlike several other Twitter-based tools15, has not been utilised by media professionals as it could be. AAP article ‘Abbott ‘may have misled parliament’’ (AAP, 2012) was published online on August 30th by the Courier Mail and is one example that may have benefitted by researching trends, public opinion and relative links between topics on Bottlenose. The topic discussed– whether or not Mr Tony Abbott deliberated lied and mislead parliament regarding legislation about BHP Billiton –is presented as a straight forward news report16 discussing facts and authoritative and background sources. As this is a controversial topic, using Bottlenose to garner public opinion and thought would not only enhance the piece but provide an original angle to ensure publication and interest.
The topic also resonates nationally, shown by the spread of discussion and links on Bottlenose’s sonar. This sonar map could have been used by The Courier Mail or AAP to write and research follow-up stories or combine this topic with relevant and similar past events. The presentation of the article is unappealing and plain with no images used, hence losing attention, and the sonar image itself could have been included as an interesting graphic to engage the audience (Figure 6). Alongside the sonar image, Bottlenose offers a basis to intertwine public opinion and thought and break up the factual paragraphs by providing an interesting hook. Not only would inclusion of public comments set the piece apart from previous coverage but bestow the audience with a ‘different type of relationship than the “arms-length” connection created by traditional mass communication.’ (Stassen, 2010)
Bottlenose at a Glance
Democracy: Gen Y Operates on New Battlefield‘Back in my day…’ is a grimace-worthy phrase often quoted by grandchildren, but the campaign highlighting allegations surrounding the University of Queensland’s (UQ) 2012 student union elections bring it the differences in protest tactics to the Queensland stage. Students inspired by decades of university protest tactics marched on UQ’s St Lucia campus last Wednesday, yet the real battle was being staked out via social media.
Ever since Myspace began attracting attention through its ability to connect people together, social media has become increasingly important to modern life. Instant and accessible, it has been used as a medium to present the unvarnished truth. It creates infinite possibilities that we – scholars, the public and traditional media professionals – are only just beginning to comprehend. Within the last two weeks, it has also changed the way UQ students reach and speak out.
Allegations outlining corrupt and underhand tactics by UQ Union’s young LNP party Fresh surfaced on August 19 with the creation of Facebook group Democracy4UQU. The topic spread through Facebook and Twitter for two days before being picked up by newspapers - especially from several articles in The Courier Mail – and quickly gained over 3,000 supporters. Though supplemented with flyers and leaflets, most of UQ’s student collective was aware of either the Democracy4UQU group or the hashtag #sneakyUQU by the time voting opened.Last Monday students began advertising a protest rally over social media. The widespread online sharing culminated in over 300 students with banners and microphones marching through the campus to stage a sit-in outside the locked UQ Union building. Gen Y has twisted the foundations of protest tradition: social media was used to organise, advertising and document the rally. Online support has spread to other outlets including the creation of an online petition currently signed by over 750 people, YouTube videos like ‘Hitler Finds Out that a Fresh Defeat is Inevitable’ and ‘UQU – A Brief History’ rap, and memes have appeared on the Facebook page daily. It was only after the movement had built momentum online, leading to support from traditional media, did UQ agree to perform an audit of Fresh’s actions and expenses. Bottlenose’s sonar function shows the spread and connection of topics, people and links surrounding the hashtag #sneakyUQU. Expected links such as UQ Union appear, but interestingly the topic has been linked to Australian politics (#auspol) and the LNP party (#miniLNP).
Obviously, the role and definitions of social media in everyday life is being redefined. Social media platforms have been increasingly used by politicians, activists and social movements, and as the Democracy4UQU movement shows, it can empower, engage, organise and communicate. Social media can be a platform for a strong, united front.
 A beta version is a intermediate stage trial in which the hardware or software is tested in the environment for which it was designed, usually after debugging by the manufacturer and immediately prior to marketing; http://www.techterms.com/definition/betasoftware
 Bottlenose can work in conjunction with Twitter-based tool Buffer, allowing scheduled posts to be made to other platforms: http://blog.bufferapp.com/how-to-finally-find-and-share-the-best-news-from-your-twitter-stream
 Real-time processing: instantaneously; http://www.techterms.com/definition/realtime
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZ7wgCg23cE&playnext=1&list=PL661D7879CD47625A&feature=results _video
 Subscribing to another users Tweets as a follower allows you to see their updates and send private messages: https://support.twitter.com/articles/14019-what-is-following#
 Hyperlinks are a word, symbol or image that allow users to click from page to page: http://www.techterms.com/definition/hyperlink
 The @ symbol is used to mention or reply other users in Twitter: https://support.twitter.com/articles/14023-what-are-replies-and-mentions#
 The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages. [Twitter help page, https://support.twitter.com/articles/49309-what-are-hashtags-symbols#]
 For example Trendsmap, which has been used by the traditional media in several instances: http://trendsmap.com/
 It follows a typical ‘inverted pyramid’ structure: the order in which more and less ‘important’ information is placed in a story, looking like a pyramid. (Harcup, 2009, p. 108)