A big #YearOnTwitter for @BBCBreaking


2013 has been a big year for breaking news.

The first resignation of a Pope in nearly 600 years.

The birth of a royal baby, third in line to the throne.

The death of Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela.

Across our television, radio and digital services we've delivered to huge audiences at regional, national and international level. Social media is an increasingly important part of our news output. In terms of breaking news that means @BBCBreaking and its eight million followers.

Start Quote

In a world where many notable figures have been killed off prematurely on social media... nothing is more important than trust”

End Quote

So what's the best way to capture these moments if you're broadcasting to an audience of millions of followers on Twitter?

@BBCBreaking was neither the first to announce the news of Nelson Mandela's death, nor had anything different to say than our competitors. So why did our tweet generate 78,000 retweets, several thousand more than any other news organisation?

No one can claim to know for sure, but we think the simple brevity of the tweet together with the photograph, could well have made it more shareable.

It's safe to say that @BBCBreaking has had a very good year. Follower numbers have increased from 4.5 million to more than 8 million in the space of 12 months. It has consistently led Newswhip's "top publisher" chart on Twitter (ranked by tweets and retweets), and has recently been showcased by Twitter as one of the news accounts of 2013.

Top Twitter publishers, November 2013

(NewsWhip, 10th December 2013)

Hashtags, photographs, quotations. There are many theories on what makes news travel farthest on social media. Accuracy and timeliness is clearly important but arguably, in a world where many notable figures have been killed off prematurely on social media, and where breaking news situations can be beset by spurious or false claims, nothing is more important than trust.

Some of the success of @BBCBreaking can be attributed to how the account is staffed in the BBC multimedia newsroom in New Broadcasting House, London. As this BBC College of Journalism film shows, a small team of writers work round the clock alongside BBC News website colleagues to ensure that all our tweets accurately reflect the stories on the website and that we have no interruption of service.

It's a challenging and fast-paced job. When court verdicts coincide with natural disasters there's a need to write about both quickly. Faced with an important but complex government announcement a summary in under 140 characters can be testing. Who knows what breaking news will dominate in 2014? One thing is for certain, @BBCBreaking will be there.

You can follow Mark Frankel on Twitter at @markfrankel29