CHARLOTTE, N.C. Ken Brown is spending part of the DNC looking at the clouds for the city of Charlotte.
Only he’s not looking at the sky. The city spokesman is looking at a computer monitor for social media trends and activity that can appear as clouds on a map.
Charlotte officials are using new mapping software that allows them to monitor citywide social media usage more broadly than ever. The experimental “Social Map” was developed for use during the DNC by Esri, a mapping and tech company, in partnership with the city.
City officials say they are looking for clusters or individual social media usage to see topics that pertain to city services. A new cloud of tweets could, for instance, note a traffic light is out. The map helps visualize where the tweets are coming from. The more tweets, the bigger the cloud.
Clicking on the cloud allows the tweets to be read. The city is looking for rumor control and developing situations. “We want to keep the pulse of the city and see if there is a need to respond with city services,” Brown said.
On Saturday, Brown said, the major topics centered on the protest movement’s arrival. Sunday’s topics were the protest and the heat. On Monday, the social media buzz centered on transit-related issues, including the opening of the temporary transportation center.
In addition to Twitter, the Social Map can also track Flickr and YouTube simultaneously, McDermott said.
The city will review the results after the DNC and decide whether to continue to use the application, said Twyla McDermott, corporate technology program manager in the office of the city’s chief information officer.
Mike Dyer, Esri’s Southeast regional manager, said maps that embed social media are fast becoming an accepted source of data for keeping people informed on big events. They also can complement public safety data to help determine resources and needs.
In Tampa, Fla., site of last week’s Republican National Convention, the city and a regional tourism group sponsored a “social media command center” that mined social media conversations for interactive opportunities. Volunteers sometimes responded to Tweets and posts, such as recommending a good restaurant or how to find a cab.
There was plenty to check on. Verizon said that during the three-day convention in downtown Tampa, it handled nearly 48 million calls, texts, downloads and other data connections. That’s seven times the connections for a normal three-day period. AT&T said during its peak data usage time, its subscribers at the RNC consumed at least 50 percent more data on average than its subscribers at the last Super Bowl in 2009.