Twitter for Journalists
Collection of blog posts on Twitter tips for journalists.
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Twitter for Journalists Broadcast Newsroom Computing Blog Digest James Rowe 2009 ROWE AND COMPANY, LLC Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest Disclaimer This is a digest of blogs gathered on the subject of how journalists use Twitter. It is a compilation of the works of others on the subject. Each author is duly credited with their work. The blogs were altered as little as possible and if so only for clarity. Thank you to the many who keep the Internet a place where knowledge can be shared. James Rowe Rowe and Company, LLC Page 2 Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest Using Twitter for Journalists Twitter Basics for Journalists & Recovering Journos By now you‟ve probably heard about Twitter, the social media service that allows you to publish posts of 140 characters max. What Twitter does, in a nutshell: This service allows you to receive posts (”tweets”) from other Twitter users whom you choose to “follow.” Likewise, other Twitter users can choose to follow you. When you follow someone on Twitter, their tweets show up in reverse chronological order in the “tweetstream” that scrolls down the Twitter home page when you‟re logged in. The effect is somewhat like an ongoing Headline News version of what‟s happening in the minds and worlds of people you know or find interesting. Twitter also supports rudimentary public and private conversation between users. THE VALUE OF TWITTER In my experience, Twitter‟s biggest payoff is that it allows you to gather a personal posse who can support you in powerful, flexible, speedy ways. Also, if you‟re choosy about the people you follow, Twitter can be quite an effective radar screen for news or relevant issues. But there are many other potential benefits, especially for journos… Twitter can help you engage people on a personal level, and to demonstrate your interest in them. This is something that, IMHO, many journalists resist — but that can benefit journos and their work significantly once they loosen up about acting like human beings in a public venue. Twitter also can help you spread the word about your efforts, driving traffic to online, broadcast, mobile, or print venues — or even live events. Here, the response can be fast! WHY THE 140-CHARACTER LIMIT? Communication via Twitter is so tightly constrained because it‟s meant to work at the lowest common denominator of digital media: plain text messaging on bare-bones cell phones. …Of course Twitter also is accessible by smart phones, e-mail, RSS feeds, and other channels. Twitter‟s simplicity gives this medium surprising power and portability, especially because it “plays nice” with a remarkable number of other services and tools — which means you can use Twitter to connect with people almost anywhere. HOW TO GET STARTED WITH TWITTER Rowe and Company, LLC Page 3 Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest 1. Go to Twitter.com and click the big green “Get Started — Join!” button. 2. Choose a username. Keep it as short as possible — characters count here! Your first Twitter username also should represent you as a person. For instance, JaneDoe or Jdoe would be much better than GazetteEnvironmentReporter. (If you want to set up separate accounts later for other purposes, you can.) Then choose a password and, given them your e-mail to confirm, pass their anti-robot test, and you‟re in. 3. Configure your account. You do this under the “settings” tab. o Under the “notices” tab, select “show me all @replies.” This will make it possible for other Twitter users to get your attention even if you‟re not already following them. Don‟t worry that people will spam you — that‟s really not a big problem, and you can block people who try. It‟s far more valuable to be open to connection here. o Do NOT “protect your updates.” This is an option under the notices tab that many journos might be tempted to click, because it‟s common for journos to want to be very private. But by requiring that you approve people to follow you, you‟re sacrificing most of the value of connection that Twitter offers. Take a deep breath, and be willing to put yourself out there. Expand your comfort zone. o Do check the boxes for “E-mail when someone starts following me” and “E-mail when I receive a new direct message.” o Complete your profile (including a link and one-line bio) and post a picture (icon). This is very important if you want people to follow you. Otherwise you might look too boring or spammish to follow. o Under the “devices” tab, register your cell phone so you can tweet via text message if you want to. But for now, set “device updates” to “off” so you don‟t receive text messages from Twitter. Give yourself some time to get used to the service before venturing in that direction. 4. Find just a FEW people to follow, at first. It‟s very easy to get overwhelmed by Twitter. I recommend that to start you just follow 5-10 Twitter users whom you know or find interesting. If you‟re a journalist and don‟t know where to start, try looking over the list of people I follow. Many of them are media folks who really tweet well. You can also follow me if you like. Also, SEJers might like to follow environmental journalist Greg Harman, he tweets pretty well. You can also follow people whom you already know — but realize that not all Twitter users tweet often or well. To follow someone, just click on their username, which is a hyperlink that takes you to the page showing all their recent tweets. Click the “follow” button just under their icon at the page top. Now you‟ll see their recent tweets on your home page when you log in to Twitter. 5. Post your first few tweets. When you‟re on the Twitter home page, you‟ll see at the top a box under the heading “What are you doing?” That‟s where you type in your tweets. Click the “update” button to send. There‟s a running character count that shows you when you‟re running out of space. Be aware that simply saying what you‟re doing is about the most BORING way to tweet. If you make an effort to contributing interesting observations, thoughts, questions, etc., it‟s more likely people will follow you and respond to you. 6. Reply to someone. Twitter supports rudimentary conversation. Rowe and Company, LLC Page 4 Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest Of all the tweets coming in from the people you‟re following, pick one that you like and move your cursor over it. When the box is highlighted, you‟ll see a little arrow curving up and to the left. Click that. o Then you‟ll see that person‟s username preceded by an “@” sign appear in the posting box at the page top. After that, type a response to that post. Make sure it‟s something you wouldn‟t mind other people (even strangers) seeing; this is public. o When you send this tweet, that user will see it show up under their “replies” tab. They‟ll know you‟re trying to engage them in conversation, and they might respond in kind. o You can quickly find responses to you by clicking “@Replies” in the right-hand sidebar. o If you want to test this out, type in a tweet that says: @agahran, I’m new to Twitter, please reply to me so I can see how this works. I‟ll see that and will send you a reply as soon as I see it, and you‟ll see that under your “@Replies” tab. 7. Tell people you’re on Twitter. At first, just tell other Twitter users who are within your comfort zone — perhaps some of the people you‟ve chosen to follow. But as you get used to this medium, you might want to post your Twitter ID on your personal blog (You have one, right? You should! More on that in another post), bio page on your employer‟s site, with your byline, in your e-mail signature file, etc. o In a subsequent post, I‟ll give journalists and other media folks some tips for how to use Twitter effectively — especially how to act like a real human being here in order to be truly engaging. But this is enough to get you started. http://www.contentious.com/2008/10/21/twitter-basics-for-journalists-recovering-journos/ Rowe and Company, LLC Page 5 Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest How We Use Twitter for Journalism Written by Marshall Kirkpatrick / April 25, 2008 3:01 PM How useful can communication limited to 140 characters be for serious journalism? It turns out that the short messages you find on Twitter have proven wildly useful for some writers penning larger pieces. Here at ReadWriteWeb we've been leveraging Twitter heavily for some of our most important news writing. While cynics dismiss twitter as frivolous, we've got stories to share that should make anyone reconsider their doubts about the microblogging medium. Josh Catone wrote here in January about the rise of Twitter as a platform for serious discourse and discussed the way that a handful of mainstream journalists are using the tool. Charles Cooper did an informal survey… that found a definite majority of journalists old and new to be absent from Twitter. I did an interview on the BBC last week with some traditional journalists about Twitter and they scoffed at the idea that it could be useful. "Well," one said after I talked about how we've used it, "I certainly won't be checking it out." Hmph! The scoffers can scoff all they want, but here at RWW our use of Twitter so far has included: the discovery of breaking stories, performing interviews, quality assurance and promotion of our work. Breaking News One of the defining characteristics of Twitter is its ease of use. While getting engaged enough to find value in the service does require some initial investment of time and energy - on a day to day and minute by minute basis, Twitter is remarkably easy to post to. As a result, people often post things they discover to Twitter before or instead of posting it to a blog. Whether it's natural disasters, political developments or breaking tech news - it's common to discover items of interest first on Twitter. Rowe and Company, LLC Page 6 Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest Robert Scoble wrote … about how Twitter users reported a major earthquake in Mexico City several minutes before the USGS did. Zolie Erdos chronicled … how Twitter users beat government agencies and the world's (formerly) leading news organizations in reporting on March earthquakes in both China and Japan. We discover tech news tips on Twitter first on a regular basis. When Google bought Twitter competitor Jaiku, for example, we learned about it on Twitter. That early news tip lead to our covering the news before anyone else and getting our story on the front page of Digg - good in this case for tens of thousands of page views. Interviews When we got to interview Mark Zuckerberg at SXSW …, we solicited interview questions via Twitter. If was quickly evident that many people wanted to read his thoughts about data portability but we got some other good question suggestions as well. That's becoming an increasingly common tactic for us and other writers, as it's so easy to supplement our own questions with those of a larger network. http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/twitter_for_journalists.php Rowe and Company, LLC Page 7 Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest How to Use Twitter - Tips for Bloggers I wrote about some of the benefits of using Twitter as a tool to improve your blog. I‟ve seen tangible benefits of getting into Twitter over the last month - but it hasn‟t been as simple as signing up for a Twitter account and then documenting every area of my life. update: Check out my new Blog TwiTip for more Twitter Tips. What follows is a compilation of the lessons I‟m learning about how to use Twitter - some Twitter Tips for Bloggers if you like. Keep in mind that I‟m very new to the medium and have made as many mistakes as anyone so far. As mentioned … - I‟m a newbie to this medium …. Tips for Bloggers on How to Use Twitter Define the Outcomes that You Want to Achieve When I first started Twittering I gave little thought to my reasons for doing so. My Tweeting was unfocused and scattered - and so was the impact that it had. Before you write another „Tweet‟ to your Twitter account ask yourself what you want to achieve from Twitter? Do you want to build your profile and perceived expertise in a niche or industry? Do you want to drive traffic to your blogs? Do you want to use it to network with others in your niche? Is it a branding exercise? Do you want to show your readers a more personal side of yourself? Is it more of a social exercise? There are many things that Twitter can offer a blogger (check out my last post for more) - but one lesson I‟ve already learned is that Twitter is a more effective tool if you know why you‟re using it and focus in on just one (or a few) objectives rather than all of the above). Rowe and Company, LLC Page 8 Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest Suggestion: if your Twitter goals are wide - why not start multiple Twitter accounts - one for each objective. For example you could have a social one for your friends, one for each blog that you have to drive traffic and another to build profile. Homework - grab a pen and paper or open up a text document and come up with your top 2-3 goals and objectives for Twitter. Stay Disciplined with Your Objectives Once you have your Twitter objectives set you need to work towards them. It‟s like any goal or resolution that you make - you‟ll only achieve what you set out to achieve if your actions match your objectives. This doesn‟t mean that you can‟t occasionally Tweet things in a way that is outside of your objectives (I mix mine up a bit) but it does mean that the majority of your tweets probably need to stay on track. Homework - take the list of objectives that you‟ve come up with and put them somewhere that you‟ll see them regularly. Each time you twitter ask yourself - „is this Tweet getting me closer to these objectives?‟ Be Original and Useful This tip will sound familiar to those who‟ve been reading ProBlogger for a while because it‟s ProBlogger‟s rule #1 when it comes to building a successful blog - build a blog that is unique and useful. If you build a blog like this people will keep coming back for more. The same is true for Twitter (in fact most of these tips can be applied to Twitter or blogging). There are many thousands of people using Twitter - and there‟s a lot of conversation buzzing around the Twittersphere. The problem is that it‟s hard to stand out from the crowd and get noticed. Providing your followers with something original and useful is one way to do this. The benefits of doing so is that you‟ll get people „replying‟ to you - which catch the attention of those who follow them and can find you new followers. Ultimately it‟s about adding value to the conversations that are happening on Twitter. When you become someone who goes beyond adding to the noise of the Twittersphere you‟ll become someone that people seek out and want to interact with. Homework: Ask yourself a second question before you Tweet - „is this original and useful to my followers?‟ If the answer is yes - publish it. If it‟s not - either take a few extra moments to improve your Tweet or consider dropping it. Learn that Every Tweet Counts This is another thing that I speak about when it comes to blogging that also applies to Twitter. Every time you publish something on your Twitter account (or Blog) you can potentially improve or hurt your reputation, brand and profile. This is an important lesson to learn particularly for Twitter where it‟s so easy to post something out of anger, in a drunken moment Rowe and Company, LLC Page 9 Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest or that could hurt your reputation in some way. Sure posting in this way can add ‟spice‟ to your Twittering - but it can also hurt your reputation. Monitor your Reply Ratio There are two types of public „Tweets‟ or posts that you can make on Twitter. The first is a normal Tweet (where you publish something that you‟ve been thinking, post a link to a good post you‟ve seen, share an idea, ask a question etc). The second is a „reply‟ to something that someone else has said (an answer to a question, a question of your own, a suggestion etc). Both types of Tweets are very important to building a successful Twitter experience. Publishing normal Tweets shares something of yourself and adds to the „original‟ factor that I mentioned above. Replies take Twittering to a more personal and conversational level. They are also one way that can spread your profile wider (the more people reply to you the more chance of others seeing, joining the conversation and following you). The challenge is to keep the ratio of normal Tweets to reply Tweets in balance. I don‟t know that there is any one perfect ratio - but I do know that some Twitterers frustrate me by going to the extreme in one way or the other. There are dangers in the extremes: If you reply too much you run the risk of just blending in to the noise of the Twittersphere. Your tweets can become less useful to your wider community of followers and can end up being confusing. Remember that most of your followers can only see half of the conversations that you‟re having. If you don’t reply enough you could be missing one of the real benefits of Twitter - that of the interaction and conversation that is possible. You can also end up coming across as unapproachable and allusive. My own approach is to attempt to keep my replies down to a level where my „normal‟ Tweets are appearing every few Tweets. If I find myself replying too much I attempt to throw in some non reply tweets or take things to direct messaging (see my next point). Homework - do a little analysis of your „reply ratio‟. How many replies do you send for every normal Tweet? Is this something that you‟re comfortable with? You might even like to ask your followers directly if you reply too much or not enough. Another quick exercise is to look at some of your favorite Twitter users and see what their reply ratio is. I‟d be interested to see someone do some analysis on this from top Twitter users. Learn to Use Direct Messages If your reply tweet ratio is out of balance in that you „reply‟ too much a good way to combat the problem is to consider using direct messages. My own approach to this is that I almost always publicly „reply‟ to something that someone has Tweeted the first time - but if the conversation continues I‟ll take the conversation to „direct messages‟ after the second or third reply unless I think the conversation has something of value to my wider following community. Rowe and Company, LLC Page 10 Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest Ask Questions One of the most effective types of Tweets that I‟ve done is to ask my followers questions. I highlighted the power of asking questions in … post when I asked followers about their RSS subscribing habits (there are now over 50 or so replies). Asking a relevant question will draw many followers out of lurk mode and into an active engagement with you. Asking questions will draw people to ‘reply’ which (as I’ve already mentioned) will have a viral impact as those answering will show their own followers that they follow you Asking questions is great for helping you to learn which can be very useful if you’re researching a blog post Asking questions can lead to fruitful discoveries and real relationships with followers I don‟t ask questions with every Tweet - but try to throw one in most days. Bonus tip: once people have stopped replying to your question report back to your followers what the results were. This keeps the conversation going and gives followers a sense of how their response fits into the overall response. Don’t be a self centered Twitterer Over the last couple of weeks I‟ve been twittering from my feed reader and Tweeting the best links and posts that I find on other people‟s blogs. The tool I use for this is… this one. In a sense what I‟m doing is ‟speedlinking‟ to posts about blogging. What I‟ve found in doing this is that I get a lot of replies and direct messages from followers thanking me for these links and asking me questions about them. It seems to be helping my own profile and perceived expertise to be seen to be across what‟s going on in my niche. I think it also helps to balance the Tweets that I‟m doing that are more self serving (pointing links to my own posts). My Twittering becomes more about the niche of blogging about blogging and less about me - I think that this is more useful to my followers. I guess what I‟m saying is that if you‟re using Twitter to promote yourself or your blog (and this is fine) then it might be worth considering how you can add some variety to your Twittering by also promoting the quality work of others (note: don‟t just link to others for the sake of it - keep the quality high and links relevant). Question: what is your‟self linking‟ to „linking to others‟ ratio? Could you mix it up a little more? Rowe and Company, LLC Page 11 Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest Be Active I was asked yesterday how I‟ve managed to grow my Twitter followers up to the 1000 mark in just a few weeks. There are numerous reasons (including that I‟ve promoted my Twitter account on my blog) - but I do think that the number one reason is that I‟ve been quite active and using the medium more and more. The more you Twitter the more chance you‟ll get others find you through others replying to you. I‟ve noticed the days that I Tweet more than others are the days I get most followers. Forgetting to Tweet? - one of my biggest problems in the early days was forgetting to Tweet. It wasn‟t a natural part of my daily rhythm. So I decided to remind myself by setting aside a few minutes in the mornings and a few minutes in the evenings to specifically use Twitter. I even set alarms in my calendar to remind me. Since moving to a tool like Twhirl (see below) I find that I‟m reminded more regularly and see new Tweets from others come in - this has helped me be more regular on Twitter myself. Promote Your Twitter Feed The other reason that I‟ve been able to grow my followership is that I‟ve actively promoted my Twitter profile in numerous places. I‟ve added a link to it in the footer of this blog, on my contact page and have posted about it here on ProBlogger numerous times over the last month. I‟ve also added it to my facebook profile and have mentioned it to others that I know use Twitter. It‟s like promoting a blog - you want to leverage the profile that you might already have when launching a new project. Don‟t spam people with it or force it down their throat but don‟t be afraid to promote that you‟re Twittering. Homework - if your Twittering is relevant to your blog - think about where you could add a link to your Twitter profile. Connect with Others in Your Niche I want to connect with as many Twitter users as possible - however there are some that I‟ve attempted to connect with more than others - simply because they are people who are active in niches that I interact in. Really this comes back to your objectives - if you want to become known in your niche and build your own profile in it then you need to be interacting with others who are also in that niche. Add yourself as a follower to other key Twitterer users, add value to these people‟s conversations, interact with them via direct messaging etc. Homework - go Twitter Surfing. The best way that I‟ve found to find people who are Twittering in my niches is to simply go surfing. Start with those that follow you and see who else they are following and what they Twitter about. You‟ll find that these followers will lead you to others (and so on). Rowe and Company, LLC Page 12 Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest Pick an Avatar and Profile Page that Reinforces Your Brand Twitter doesn‟t allow a lot of customization - but the subtle things that it does allow you to change can have an impact. Your Avatar is one important factor - it appears next to every Tweet you make as well as on your profile page. If you just allow the default brown avatar to represent you you‟re missing a great marketing opportunity. I would recommend using an avatar that reinforces your brand. If you‟re brand is YOU then a picture of you would be worth adding. If your brand is your blog - then use a logo of some kind. Similarly your profile page can be tweaks with an image and colors. I‟ve not really done a lot with colors but added a ProBlogger Logo to mine to reinforce that in the mind of those who follow ProBlogger. I‟m not completely satisfied with this yet and have it on my to-do list to think through a better way to do this. Question - what does your avatar and profile page say about you? Does it add to your brand? Consider Your Personal Tweet Strategy This is one that I‟ve grappled with a bit. In the earlier days of my Twittering I posted more personal Tweets than I currently do. Some followers seemed to like this but others were quite vocal about not liking them. I realized that my objectives for using Twitter were not for it to be a personal space - so I cut back the personal Tweets. Having said this - I do include some more personal tweets from time to time as I think it can show a different side of you to your followers and add interest. However for me it‟s about keeping things in balance. Find Your Voice I think it‟s important to think about the voice that you Tweet in. One thing that I‟ve found followers responding to is by Twittering in a more humorous voice. Telling a funny story or posting the occasional funny link can show a more personal side of you. Other Twitter users seem to get good responses from people when they Tweet in a more gruff and blunt tone. I guess it‟s about finding what works for you. Try Different Twitter Tools There are a good variety of twitter tools available to help you manage your twittering. One of the things that stopped me getting into Twitter in the early days was that I only used it when I thought to go to my actual Twitter page. On discovering desktop twitter clients my Twittering changed completely. They are like instant messaging tools that notify you of when people make updates and more importantly when replies and direct messages come in. They also make adding a Tweet as easy as typing an instant message. Rowe and Company, LLC Page 13 Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest I use Twhirl as my Twitter client of choice at the moment - but there are many other methods. I‟ve also tried and liked: Twitterific - another desktop Twitter client (mac) Tweetbar - twitter from the sidebar of Firefox Another useful tool if you want to promote your Blog‟s posts to Twitter is Twitterfeed. There are many other tools to try and experiment … as does Mashable. I think the key is to try different tools and find the one that fits with your own rhythm. Work With the Rhythm of Your Followers This doesn‟t mean that „dead‟ times are a waste of time - in fact I find Twittering in these times can be good because it‟s easier to cut through the noise of busier times. Take home lesson: experiment with different times and days to see what impact they have. What Twitter Tips Would You Add? Like I said in my introduction to this post. I‟m early on in my journey with Twitter and still have a lot to learn. I‟d love to hear from other bloggers who use Twitter - particularly to hear how you‟ve used it to improve your blog in any way. http://www.problogger.net/archives/2008/01/25/how-to-use-twitter-tips-for-bloggers/ Rowe and Company, LLC Page 14 Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest The Official Twitter Text Commands Submitted Nov 06, 2008 by crystal The Official Twitter Commands Did you know: you can perform certain actions, like following or marking a friend's update as a favorite, by using the designated Twitter commands? Use the commands listed below from your phone, the web update box, or your favorite third party application. Turning Twitter off and on: device notifications ON: turns ALL phone notifications on. OFF: turns ALL phone notifications off. STOP, QUIT: stops all messages to your phone immediately ON username: turns on notifications for a specific person on your phone. For example, ON alissa. OFF username: turns off notifications for a specific person on your phone. For example, OFF blaine. FOLLOW username: this command allows you to start receiving notifications for a specific person on your phone. Example: follow jeremy LEAVE username: this command allows you to stop receiving notifications for a specific person on your phone. Example: leave benfu Fun Stuff: friends, favorites, and stats! There's more to Twitter than OFF and ON! Use the commands below to send private messages, mark updates as favorites, or even remind someone to update their Twitter page if you're wondering what they're doing! @username + message directs a twitter at another person, and causes your twitter to save in their "replies" tab. Example: @meangrape I love that song too! D username + message sends a person a private message that goes to their device, and saves in their web archive. Example: d krissy want to pick a Jamba Juice for me while you're there? Rowe and Company, LLC Page 15 Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest WHOIS username retrieves the profile information for any public user on Twitter. Example: whois jack GET username retrieves the latest Twitter update posted by the person. Example: get goldman NUDGE username reminds a friend to update by asking what they're doing on your behalf. Example: nudge biz FAV username marks a person's last twitter as a favorite. (hint: reply to any update with FAV to mark it as a favorite if you're receiving it in real time) Example: fav al3x STATS this command returns your number of followers, how many people you're following, and which words you're tracking. INVITE phone number will send an SMS invite to a friend's mobile phone. Example: Invite 415 555 1212 Noteworthy Facts using on/off username from your phone only stops notifications to the place the command comes from; you'll still collect a person's updates on the web. using follow/leave username from your phone is the same as using on/off username following someone from a phone for the first time will also cause you to follow them on the web there is no way to stop following a person on the web without visiting their profile and removing them. The off, leave, stop, and quit commands will only disable updates for the device(s) from which they were sent. you don't have to use ON/OFF username from the phone, you can also set individual notifcations from a person's profile page, or check your following page and manage all phone notification settings there. Rowe and Company, LLC Page 16 Broadcast Newsroom Computing Digest [How useful can communication limited to 140 characters be for serious journalism? It turns out that the short messages you find on Twitter have proven wildly useful for some writers penning larger pieces. ] Rowe and Company, LLC 275 Grove Street Suite 2-400 Newton, MA 02466 617.663.5747 Telephone 617.663.4801 Fax Rowe and Company, LLC Page 17