Other | 02. March 2010

@DLR_de: Interactions on Twitter during German Aerospace Day 2009

A380 beim Tag der Luft%2d und Raumfahrt 2009
A380 beim Tag der Luft- und Raumfahrt 2009

The DLR Web Portal is indeed the most important tool in our online communication arsenal. Nevertheless, here at DLR Communication, over the last few years we have realised that we are not able to reach all potential communication partners on this platform. Therefore, we decided to go where those people were, for example, to the social media portals. We are also fully aware of the fact that communication is not a one-way street. We want to be contactable, to open a channel for feedback and to respond to what we are told. Twitter is an ideal medium for that purpose.

This is why I launched our German-language Twitter channel @DLR_de. at the end of August 2008. The most astonishing experience on this channel occurred on 20 September 2009. (The links and statistics in this blog refer to the German-language Twitter channel and Web Portal. There is also a DLR English-language Twitter channel @DLR_en and an English-language Web Portal.)

The German Aerospace Day brought 100,000 visitors to the DLR site in Cologne. We were also overwhelmed by the number of people expressing an interest via our DLR Web Portal. The special page for Aerospace Day, especially the photo galleries, broke the record in click statistics for 2009. In the blog post about click statistics, I also announced that I still wanted to blog a little about tweeting on our Aerospace Day – and that's what I am doing here.

On 20 September 2009 we recorded about 250 tweets, almost more than on any other day. Many visitors who were tweeting on location using their mobile phones engaged in a dialogue with us. While my colleagues at the Aerospace Day were working their way through the dense crowds of visitors, waiting in the autumn sun, I was sitting here in the office building photo galleries with a colleague, tweeting away. You can still read about this in the favourites on our channel. Since that was some time ago, I have produced a graphic to commemorate the event (pdf) and would like to describe a few of the details it contains. To read this pdf in chronological order, you need to work from the bottom left to the top right – and the adjacent graphic runs from bottom to top.

In the days leading up to the event, we sounded the proverbial jungle drums on Twitter too. On the morning of 20 September 2009, we invited you to visit DLR once again, proposed #TdLR as the hashtag, provided details of how to find us on Getwitpic and linked the event flyer in PDF format so it could be printed out. Even before the gates opened at 10 am, the volume of #TdLR Tweets grew markedly as visitors finished their Sunday breakfasts and headed to DLR, tweeting as they did so. With 100,000 visitors on our research campus in a single day, it is scarcely surprising that some points were congested and that a few visitors, despite plentiful parking space, had difficulty finding a parking space. We passed this feedback from a few individual Twitter users straight to our associated 'followers'. The recommendation was: come by public transport and use the shuttle buses provided from the S-Bahn. In this way, some of our visitors were spared from the traffic congestion.

The star of the show was the Airbus A380, located at the Zulu stand, a site that belongs to Cologne-Bonn Airport, adjacent to the DLR site. For security reasons, only a limited number of visitors were allowed onto the Zulu stand, which meant that a large number of visitors had to stand and wait their turn. We were able to track their mood on Twitter. It emerged that our followers took appropriate action in response to my explanations of the situation as it developed. When the live video stream from the stage programme was not running smoothly, we used Twitter to let everyone know promptly and effectively that we were working on a solution. Responses to this were all favourable.

There were particularly fruitful interactions with visitors that afternoon when the A380 was started up in preparation for leaving Cologne. I had asked our followers for photos and videos. We then forwarded these by tweeting them and/or uploaded them to our YouTube channel. Getting on towards the afternoon, there was a lot of positive feedback on Twitter about which we were very pleased indeed. I thoroughly enjoyed tuning in to the tweeting, and my own interactions with our visitors on 20 September 2009. It was an instructive event from which we learned a great deal. Although the number of Twitter interactions taken as a proportion of the total number of visitors was statistically negligible, all latest online studies indicate that social media and mobile web surfing are both going to experience ever greater visitor numbers.