Twitter is now part of the modern journalist’s toolkit, but not all of us use it as effectively as we could be. Last month, the National Press Foundation hosted a series of webinars with Mark S. Luckie (@marksluckie), manager of journalism and news at Twitter and former social media editor at the Washington Post (for further reading, check out this interview I did with Mark and four other journalists for Ebyline).
I live-tweeted all three webinars and picked up several useful tips in the process. Some of the strategies are more geared towards newsrooms than freelancers but much of the information is also applicable to us.
Here’s a recap of what I learned from each webinar along with the video replay: [UPDATE: YouTube’s embed code was acting up for these first two videos so I’ve removed the embedded videos for those and linked to them instead. Click the titles if you’d like to watch the videos. I left the third video as is.]
October 9: Reporting with Twitter
- The goal for journalists should be to be part of conversation and to use Twitter to amplify news that’s happening, especially voices that aren’t typically heard in newsrooms
- Find local sources or search by geography by entering “near:zipcode” or “near:city” in the search bar (Note: Mark intended this for the Twitter search bar, but I discovered it also works on Google!)
- Find Twitter’s advanced search options here: https://twitter.com/i/#!/search-advanced
- Tweet your beat by sharing news and commentary on the topics you cover. Journalists see a spike in follower growth and engagement when they do this.
October 16: Engaging with Twitter users
- The first step to engagement is asking questions and responding to those who answer. For instance, “Know anyone who __?” or “How would you __?”
- Hit reply to tweets to keep the conversation semi-private (direct messages or DMs are even more private). If you want others to see your tweet, include characters before the Twitter handle. For instance, “.@Urbanmusewriter” or “Hi @UrbanMuseWriter” instead of “@Urbanmusewriter.”
- Build anticipation for stories by posting video clips, behind the scenes tidbits, or archival coverage while putting together newer articles (Note: if you’re a freelancer, find out how your editors feel about this first).
- When hosting a Twitter chat, choose a hashtag that’s short and memorable, set a time that works for most people (factoring in time zone issues), promote the chat on your website and other places (not just Twitter) and filter questions as the chat is unfolding.
- Create online engagement offline by using tweets in TV broadcasts, in print, or on the radio.
- Use a tool like TweetDeck to help you track your freelance articles, including the news organization, your name, and the name of the article & its URL.
- It’s OK to schedule tweets but reschedule your tweet if there’s breaking news so that your scheduled tweet won’t get buried or seem out of touch.
October 23: Using Twitter safely and legally
- The first step in using Twitter legally is to share who you are. Add your full name to your profile so people know who you are.
- Having a private Twitter profile isn’t a license to say or do inflammatory things. Journalists should have a public profile.
- When users tweet to a proprietary hashtag used by a newsroom, their approval for using tweets is implicit. Otherwise, contact Twitter users if you plan to include their Twitter tweets in your story.
- Link to the tweet when quoting it online. Depending on the content management system you’re using, you might also embed the tweet.
- If you wouldn’t want your mother to see it, you probably shouldn’t tweet it.
- If you manage multiple accounts, make sure you’re tweeting from the correct account (yup, I’ve made this mistake myself).
- Proofread tweets, test the link, verify and run facts by editor (if applicable) before tweeting.
- File a ticket at support.twitter.com if your account has been hacked, you’re being subjected to harassment or impersonation, your personal information has been stolen, or you have a copyright complaint.
- One way to measure the quality of a Twitter account is to look at the number of lists the user is included in. Follower numbers don’t tell the whole story on quality.