CNN has been taking viewers’ questions regarding the ongoing story around the March disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on Twitter.
In addition to using the #MH370 hashtag in its news Tweets, the network has used the hashtag #370Qs across multiple shows to source questions from the audience and answer them on air, or on Twitter.
“We began soliciting when it became evident by the high volume of questions that our audience was looking to CNN to help get them answered,” said Debbi Wynn, senior director of CNN Viewer Communications Management. As the majority of questions were coming from Twitter, she said, “it made sense to focus our efforts in the area where the most activity was happening.”
On March 17, a week and a half after the plane’s disappearance, CNN broadcast a special hosted by Don Lemon incorporating Tweets from his @donlemon account, @CNN and anchor @richardquest. The show asked viewers to join the conversation and ask questions with the straightforward hashtag #370Qs.
Senior producer Maria Spinella said that instantly there was a strong response and the hashtag trended throughout the first two days. “Every time we mentioned it on air we saw a huge spike in activity,” she said.
Right away, we were impressed with how smart and thoughtful many of the #370Qs were.
Spinella said the Twitter questions were structured into the show from its inception. To start, CNN’s Viewer Services team (@TeamCNN) and producers go through the Tweets they have received to find out what interests viewers most. They organize the questions according to themes and pick the best Tweets for each theme. Lastly, they match all the questions with correspondents and experts.
“Using #370Qs Tweets provides a clear framework to present facts and organize our reporting in a way that keeps our audience’s interest top of mind,” she said.
Some of the #370Qs Tweets took CNN in new directions — literally. For instance, in the video you can see @MartinSavidge in a flight simulator, testing the theory raised by this question.
Sean Redlitz, CNN.com.’s senior producer shows & talent, said that #370Qs Tweets have kept coming in since the March 17 special. Originally all of the show’s segments revolved around #370Qs; now, more than six weeks later, CNN still utilizes #370Qs, engaging viewers in a lightning Q&A round.
Those Twitter questions also often prompt graphics like this one:
“Viewers responded well to being recognized,” Wynn said. “Those whose Tweets were recognized tended to become more engaged with us after we responded to or recognized them.”
Do you know of other innovative uses of Twitter? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.