TweetReports has officially contracted with our first official non-beta client. He’s a former heroin dealer who once shot up a room with an Uzi, spent six years in jail, isn’t using TweetReports for what we intended at all, and isn’t paying us a dime.
We couldn’t be happier.
Rev. Victor Williamson (not his real name, more on that later) is a Pastor in one of the more stereotypically violent neighborhoods in one of the largest cities in the world. As a kid growing up, he was part of the bad element — thus the drug dealing and prison time — but since turning over his life to God has turned a new chapter in his life, and the life of his community.
He’s one of those anomalies in life; someone who truly exists to make the world around them better. One of his main focuses in his ministry is working, preaching and dealing with the neighborhood kids who are living the life he used to. Rev. Victor tries to get them to put down their guns and to walk away from a conflict — usually by standing in between two groups with deadly intent.
Somehow he was able to discern that most of the gangs where he lives use Twitter as means of communication instead of cell phones. Rev. Victor was spending six to eight hours a day reading Twitter feeds to try and figure out where the next attack was going to be happening, so he could get there first and de-escalate it. Nobody needs to be arrested, nobody needs to be killed, everybody just needs to go home.
I called him on a lark several months back and offered him a trial service just to see if it would be helpful. Michael (TweetReports CEO) and I agreed that if nothing ever came of it for the company it wouldn’t matter, it was still a good thing to do and hoped for the best. We started working with him as a full client in March.
Since March, using the TweetReports monitoring service, Rev. Victor estimates:
- His search times have gone from 6-8 hours/day to 20 minutes daily, allowing him to do more outreach and spend less time in front of the computer.
- He’s used our reporting analysis tools to determine that there are two times during the day when the gang activities are the highest, so he can have more people on call to help with the violence de-escalation.
- He’s used our alerts and daily reports that he gets sent to his blackberry to be less in the office and more on the street, talking to gangs and keeping the community safer but still being informed.
- He has been able to find and stop at least a half-dozen “skirmishes”. That’s his term, not mine. I wanted to know what he meant by that once, so I did some searching myself. Turns out he stopped a gang from doing a drive-by shooting at a house party where there were 40 people. Who knows how many of those people might have died had he not gotten that information ahead of time.
- He said the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me the other day: “Because of you and TweetReports, I have eight more guns in my office.” I did ask for clarification: he meant that we helped get guns off the street; he wasn’t arming in case we stopped by for a visit.
We’re not working with Rev. Victor just for charity or for philanthropic reasons; we get a lot of great ideas from him about product improvements as well.
We showed him a full demonstration of the advanced TweetReports search features, including Follower Analysis reports so you can know who are the influencer’s following you, what they’re talking about and when.
He thought about that for a second, and responded “Well that’s cool. What would really be helpful for me is if I could do a search within the people I’m following so I can see what the conversation is within that group too.” We stared straight ahead for a few seconds and one of the developers said “Uh, we… we never thought of that.” So with a few hours’ work and a great idea, a completely new and unique advanced search feature was born. And thanks to Rev. Victor, you get to use it too.
As you can probably tell we have a great affection for the work that he does and that he generously includes us as part of his overall effort, which is why we have not given his real name or his city here.
I recently did a presentation for a community leadership coalition in his neighborhood to explain how Rev. Victor was utilizing the technology to be more informed and using the monitoring features as an intelligence-gathering tool, so that he could help more kids, stop more incidents, and take more guns off the streets.
After the meeting I asked him how it went; he told me all but one person thought it was fantastic and was really supportive of the effort.
We found out later that the one holdout was a relative of a gang leader who left the meeting and promptly told that gang leader that Rev. Victor was monitoring what they were saying. Most of that gang changed their usernames and profiles almost immediately, but they kept talking. Despite what is being said, Rev. Victor’s mission is a peaceful one and so keeping them talking us an unfortunate necessity.
It also makes our job at TweetReports that much more important: you better believe law enforcement agencies are monitoring social media sites just like employers are. So if Rev. Victor’s information is slower than anybody else’s, somebody’s going to the emergency room and someone’s going to jail.
That simple yet undeniably frightening concept keeps us up at night thinking of new ways to be faster, better and more efficient.
TweetReports lets the user look for what is being said, not who is saying it — so it didn’t affect Rev. Victor’s efforts. But it did remind us of an important lesson: You can’t monitor and track something that isn’t being said.
Monitoring and tracking isn’t limited to brand management. The value of what information can bring to you is potentially limitless, especially if you can harness what people are actually talking about, not just a poll or statistics.
Rev. Victor uses the information he gathers and monitors to try to keep kids from making catastrophic mistakes. Knowing what is being said about a particular word or phrase opens up a wealth of possibilities to use information to plan, to save, to review, to imagine.
How can information and the power to know help you?
Note: While we didn’t reveal Rev. Victor’s real name in this space, if you are touched by his story and want more information, want to donate or want to help in some way, please contact me at [email protected] and I’ll pass all messages along to him.