It’s now okay to think of social media as a real time encyclopaedia: here’s why

It’s now okay to think of social media as a real time encyclopaedia: here’s why


Social media is the world’s very own open source reference book. It’s the constantly updated and updatable encyclopaedia, and the Twitter hashtag is one of the best examples of this knowledge finding capability. Social media enables us to learn while we create, a unique capability that no library could ever have.

The vast internet

There are an estimated 3.6-billion web pages on the internet, and finding credible information is no mean feat in this maze. The ability to provide access to information where people are is what Twitter has gotten right, and what Facebook is trying to do with its search capability. The vastness of the web presents an opportunity for trustworthy sources of information such as Britannica and others to share knowledge in a fun engaging way which enables feedback. Britannica for example has a Twitter handle but could have more engaging content which allows users to create, give suggestions and Twoogle.

Twoogle? Social as the vehicle of info sharing

Twoogle is an example of how people are using social media to find information, and holds the potential to be an even greater tool if channelled well. What if Twitter could enable the ability to find the most accurate or best response to a Twoogle through curation versus a user getting all mentions useful and useless as is the case currently?

Crowdsourcing relevance

The #Twittercollectivenouns which trended last week is such a great example of how users create their own relevance, a product of which is how they begin to own and enrich language. #CollectiveNouns has existed since 2011 and was created by the team at This site records and updates new collective nouns created by people on Twitter, with retweets acting as votes for the best new collective nouns. The site now has a library of descriptors which are not only fun but essentially enrich language and user engagement. Examples of user-generated collective nouns on the site include “a torrent of pirates, a distraction of iPhones and a corruption of politicians”.

This “crowdsourced language” is revealing the beauty of language in a relevant and engaging way, reaching people who probably wouldn’t normally give a hoot. How much more of an opportunity do universities, publications, organisations etc have to not only have a social presence but engage as they educate? Is a service like Storify possibly the kind of platform to be the eventual home of our live dictionary and encyclopaedia? Maybe.

People are engaging on social media and organisations the world over have an opportunity to engage and educate them exactly where they are. The trick is in being comfortable with playing the game with a completely new rule book.

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