Celebrating amazing stories that spread on Twitter

By Gordon Macmillan
Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Every day we see remarkable stories unfold on Twitter, shared powerfully because of the live and public nature of the platform. This week we are celebrating a few of the most compelling ones. Through this series we aim to highlight what happens when people are given a voice through Twitter and show how these stories spread.

#putoutyourbats

One story began on 25 November last year when Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes was fatally injured during a match. Saddened by the incident, Paul Taylor (@squizabilly) in Sydney wanted to show his respect. He took out his phone and sent a Tweet. It was short, containing just two hashtags and a photo.

The poignancy and simplicity of this message caught on and spread across the world. Others started to put their bats out, and like Paul Taylor, shared a photo along and the #putoutyourbats hashtag on Twitter – from ordinary cricket fans to greats and major names from across the world of sport.

Paul Taylor shared his story about #putoutyourbats with us – about how one Tweet from a suburban Australian street can have an impact around the globe. His story underscores what a powerful catalyst for change the mobile phone has become.

@upturnedbathtub

The story of John Brennan (@upturnedbathtub) highlights how Twitter can help change the life of an individual. Living in rural Ireland, John lacked confidence, felt cut off and was miles from the nearest town or city – but he dreamed of becoming a stand-up comedian.

On Twitter he started to tell jokes. He began to connect with people in a way that he had never done before. He made his first trip to London, he got his first stand-up gig and most importantly he found an audience. As he says, “it has changed everything” for him.

#HeForShe

Some stories on Twitter can spark a global movement. #HeForShe, an international campaign for gender equality, is a case in point. Initiated by UN Women, the #HeForShe campaign set out to engage men and boys to help change the world and how people think about gender equality.

Elizabeth Nyamayaro (@e_nyamayaro), the head of @HeForShe, spoke to us about the campaign and how, in her words, Twitter proved to be a powerful tool that reached not only youth but seniors as well to spread the message around the world. Backed by celebrities like Emma Watson (@EmWatson), #HeForShe demonstrates how powerful ideas can spread globally on Twitter and take root in society.

@OrkneyLibrary

For many of us, the Orkney Islands (a group of 70 islands with a total population of 20,000) are a distant part of the UK. And yet @OrkneyLibrary has a Twitter following of more than 16,000, and the account has become something of an internet sensation – one that has found a global audience. It is a wonderful example of how the voice of an organisation has surprised and entertained people by doing something quite different. Stewart Bain is the man behind it and we met him to learn how he achieved it.

#WaterstonesSleepover

Sometimes something so unexpected happens that there is no telling at first what direction the story might take. That’s what happened to American tourist David Willis (@DWill_) on 16 October last year. He became locked inside a branch of @Waterstones in central London. Though he was freed within two hours, it could have been a PR calamity – but instead turned into something very special as @Waterstones came together with @airbnb_uk to host a book shop sleepover. The story underscores how unexpected moments can capture the public’s imagination and ignite conversations to connect people.

We hope these examples will move you, make you think and make you laugh. They are a great reminder that, as author Philip Pullman put it, “after nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most” – and with Twitter, there is the power to share them widely and make them all the more powerful.