The Weather Channel, which usually posts out-of-context and alarming footage of severe weather events worldwide, is effectively adding value to its coverage by using social media curation tool Storify to show the effects of historic flooding in the Northeastern United States. As Natan Edelsburg reports on Lost Remote, TWC Editorial Meteorologist Tim Ballisty has been curating information to create context and add value to TWC’s typically sensationalistic coverage of mother nature when she’s ill tempered. You can see in this example of Flash Flooding in the Catskills from Irene, how Ballisty collected photos and descriptions captured under the Twitter hashtag #Irene and used Storify  to make a  coherent story of  Tweets, photos and videos broadcasted by onsite  reporters and observers.

Storify simplifies the process of reporting on an event.  Instead of downloading and then uploading content from multiple social networks  to create a narrative in say a blog post, using Storify  you can instead do it all at once online.  The  Internet and social web are great tools for collecting and delivering raw data and information.  Journalists appreciate Storify and have been early adapters because their long-time expertise is in synthesizing and curating information.

But if you’re a small business, you too can use Storify to tell your story directly to your customers and influencers.

Okay. So what does it mean to synthesize and curate and how can a neighborhood business find the time for that? By one definition,  synthesize means to combine a number of things into a coherent whole. If a newsy can do this with a personally touching  event like a Lost Jack the Cat or the traumatic national fallout from 9/11 —   Where were you on 9/11 — as featured on the Storify blog, a neighborhood business  can do this too. Try it with a birthday party at a cafe, a sporting event at the neighborhood high school or  the fall plant sale at your gardening center.

Approach an upcoming event with the intention of collecting information from your customers before, during and after it. This is good business practice anyway and using Twitter, it is  much easier to do than it sounds. Get started by creating a hashtag —  a keyword  you create following the # symbol — that allows you to track Tweets.  Let’s use fictional Eden Garden Center as an example.

Eden Garden Center takes these steps:

  1. Asks its customers on Twitter, Facebook, Linked in  [or whatever combination of profiles you use]:”What plants or bulbs will you be looking for at our Sept. 10 sale?”
  2. Creates a hashtag #Fallplanting, so  the tweets can be found more easily. The more specific the better.
  3. Uses Storify to collect comments before, during and after the the sale.
  4. Creates a narrative of the event.
  5. Once the Storify narrative is done, Eden posts it to its blog, Facebook and broadcasts it to Twitter.
The fun part of synthesizing this information is the social media curation.  You are a collector assessing the jewels in your social media jewel box. As Christine McCaull says in her blog post, What is curation?
Through selection, cultivation and omission, curators save us time, make the frame and architect the experiences we have. They preserve what is worth preserving. They study and collect in the margins, so that when it is needed, an informed collection is available to those who need it. And while curators have played this role throughout history, the job is even more valuable today, as information is created and fades from view at alarming volumes and speed.

Curating events you arrange and hold for your customers allows you to co-create a narrative for your  joint community experience. In the case of Eden Garden Center, customers enthusiastically contribute to Eden’s social media stream. Customer Betsy learns that  customer Joanne planted Coral Bells in July and now is spreading crocus bulbs she bought at a great price at the sale. Eden Garden is the expert on gardening and the owner can add  advice and observation to reinforce that through the Storify process. This means more value to customers through advice and a stronger community by connecting neighbors. Any negative comments Eden encounters in the Twitter stream are valuable feedback that can be also be addressed in the narrative or directly with the customer.

Storify tells me that they are in public Beta now so head on over and sign up.  Here’s the tutorial on how to get started. Feel free to post your questions here in the comments section.

If you’re not yet on Twitter, you might want to check out this very thorough write up on Chicago business WowBao and how they use Twitter.