Peterborough’s most followed describe joys and pitfalls of Twitter

Holly Aston, young writer who reviewed a meal at Pizza Express, Cathedral Square, Peterborough EMN-140919-173925009

Holly Aston, young writer who reviewed a meal at Pizza Express, Cathedral Square, Peterborough EMN-140919-173925009

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It all started with a call from the Daily Mirror at about lunchtime, and by the time Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme got in touch several hours later, following a request from the Sunday Times, it was quite clear that this was no ordinary day.

The national press were contacting this paper because they were desperate to hear from a 17-year-old student who had become an internet star thanks to an enthusiastic review of Pizza Express she had penned for us.

Warwick Davis

Warwick Davis

That student was Holly Aston and thanks to social media site Twitter her review was soon receiving encouraging words from famous faces such as The Times journalist Caitlin Moran, presenter Lauren Laverne and former MP Louise Mensch.

The review spread so fast that it was read over 205,000 times in just a few days.

The episode encapuslated the remarkable power and reach of Twitter, a place where people tweet (write) messages of 140 characters which others can see and respond to.

It is a place where the great and good go to share their thoughts and where ordinary people can contact their favourite celebrities directly, but one ill-advised message also has the power to cost you your job or your reputation.

Chairman Darragh MacAnthony EMN-150309-104405002

Chairman Darragh MacAnthony EMN-150309-104405002

Yet, for someone like Holly from Orton Goldhay, it provided a chance to enjoy a fling with fame.

Now studying Journalism and Media at De Montfort University, she said: “Seeing a review that I wrote for no set purpose go absolutely crazy on Twitter was overwhelming, especially as I didn’t even know it had been published.

“When I saw loads of people talking about it, it gave me a sense of accomplishment and I just couldn’t believe how something like this could happen to someone like me.

“Thinking about it now I honestly can’t believe it happened. However, I’m really glad it did as it taught me how things can escalate on social media and how you should take every opportunity in life no matter what.

“Something amazing could always come out of something small.”

Holly’s reward for her review included a comment piece for the Independent and a day at the Daily Mirror.

Peterborough United chairman Darragh MacAnthony joined Twitter after his wife Natalie suggested he start an account, but his tweets have resulted in him being fined by the Football Association.

Darragh said it was good to communicate with fans and that Twitter was a fun tool if you follow the right people.

But he admitted some of the abuse he gets from so-called Twitter trolls can upset Natalie, although he added: “I have at times a unique way of handling trolls and putting them in their place.”

Overall he said Twitter was positive and fun 90 per cent of the time.

But in the current season he has decided to stop tweeting about Posh matches straight after full-time and wait until the next day.

This was as a result of a rant he delivered on Twitter where he divulged why he was so ‘peed off’ with his underperforming players.

He said: “I just felt after my 11 point plan and having my wife call me from America to say ESPN were running a story about it over there, maybe it was time to take a period of reflection on results good and not so good.

“I don’t regret what I said and I stand by it but it’s better now to speak 24 hours later for sure.”

And what does Darragh think about the Posh correspondent Alan Swann’s Twitter account?

“Bar the cricket spam on the whole very good and should tweet more me thinks.”

Broadcaster and columnist Adrian Durham, a Posh supporter, reaches 250,000 people through the talkSPORT account he runs, and he said Twitter makes it easier to contact people in football and to promote his show.

He added: “Sometimes it can be fun but I hardly ever tweet or look at Twitter on my days off and those days are more fun!

“I started out with a policy of being polite and respectful and replying to tweets. If people had taken the time to contact me I owed them the same back.

“In reality with over 250,000 followers it’s unworkable. And there are too many idiots trying to cause trouble.

“A colleague said to me being on Twitter is like inviting drunks round to kick your back door in on a Friday night and he’s got a point.”

Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson, who is followed by 12,000 people, believes Twitter is a positive tool, but he is not adverse to blocking other users from contacting him on the site.

“It can be a double-edged sword. Everyone has a risk of getting into hot water,” he said. “Twitter is not the real world - it will never make up for talking to people on the door steps. I do block people sometimes because there are a lot of keyboard warriors and they get quite aggressive.”

One person who does not use Twitter is Peterborough City Council chief executive Gillian Beasley who does not feel people would be interested in her tweeting. She said: “I feel that communication is most effective when you are having an ‘old-fashioned’ conversation with the other person.

“My daughter is not a Twitter fan either and she’s also keen to keep me away from social media – probably in case I said something to embarrass her!”

More: Read the Pizza Express review which went viral

Pizza Express review goes viral after featuring on Peterborough Telegraph website