April 20, 2014

Mark Luckie’s Twitter Tips for Journalists

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.

Guest Post: A Freelancer’s Guide to Pinterest

PinterestBy Jayme Pretzloff

Over the past several months you have unquestionably heard about the new and hot social network, Pinterest. This social media platform engages users through the sharing, or pinning, of content on a virtual board that can be viewed by other users. It is a fantastic way to create and curate interesting content and share it with the world.

Many people didn’t think that Pinterest could drive web traffic, or generate article views, but it has done both to such a degree that other networks are left wondering ways they can capture this market.  Pinterest by nature is very visual but this shouldn’t discourage writers because the site drives a lot of click through traffic. Let’s take a look at how you can get these same results…

Add a “Pin It” Button
It’s a simple step; add the little red “P” logo to your website and on your articles. This is the easiest way to begin to drive traffic to your site and spread your articles’ reach over the Internet. When a user pins your work to a board, it essentially acts as a virtual reminder of “read this later” or “I really liked this”.

Optimize Your Account
This is one of the biggest problems that I have seen with writers—they either set up their profile wrong, or they don’t set it up at all. Big mistake! Describe yourself… who are you and what do you write about? Make sure to fill in your account with rich keywords as this will help with SEO.

Start Pinning!

  1. Create boards that users will want to follow—Use creative titles and set the board picture to a stunning  picture.
  2. Pin a mixture of content—Use some original content but also make some boards for other content that wasn’t written by you. Create a board that features your favorite writers, articles, books, etc.
  3. Don’t yell—You don’t want to use Pinterest to just say “read my blog” or “check out my book”. Engage them and they will want to read it naturally.
  4. Use tall pins—If you really want to have your pin seen, try pinning content that is long… it will capture more screen real estate than a normal pin.
  5. Add links—make sure to link to your website or blog. Don’t be afraid to add these links in the description box.
  6. Use keywords in descriptions—each pin and re-pin creates a back link to your site which is essential for SEO.
  7. Use hashtags—just like Twitter, Pinterest organizes content by hashtags which helps with searchability.
  8. Comment on others’ boards and pins—This engagement will interest them in your page and they will engage with your content as well.

Don’t You Dare…

  1. Don’t be afraid of Pinterest… embrace it! Just like any other social media platform it will take some experimentation to figure out how to get it to work best for you, so have fun with it. Pinterest is a great way to share your content with the world and even get more work!
  2. Don’t worry if you’re not initially getting pins from your website. Pinterest is extremely viral; approximately 80% of content transfers are done via re-pins.
  3. Don’t quit too early. It’s going to take some time to get your clout up, so keep at it. As long as you post unique, interesting content… people will pin it.

Jayme PretzloffJayme Pretzloff is the Online Marketing Director for Wixon Jewelers, a jewelry store in Minneapolis, MN. They specialize in engagement rings, watches, diamonds and custom jewelry. You can follow Jayme on Twitter as well, @jpretz.

Interested in contributing a guest blog post of your own? Check out the guest blogger guidelines.

Guest Post: Are You Taking Advantage of Social Media the “Write” Way?

By Kaity Nakagoshi

Just as writing for the web requires different tactics than writing for print, writing for social media is different than writing for the web. Writers need to evaluate their style and approach when writing for social media in order to meet the unique needs of this medium.

Know Your Audience
One of the biggest ways in which social media writing differs from web writing is the fact that you are writing for specific people, not for algorithms. Even though web writing is generally crafted to appeal to people, it must also take into account how to best attract attention from search engines and how to stand out in search results. With social media, the emphasis is on building conversations and relationships, not page rank. Content has to appeal to specific individuals, not aggregate groups, and must be written in a way that encourages sharing.

So-Me Writing for Dummies
While talented writers can produce content for just about any medium, to be a successful social media writer, it helps if you’re a sociable person. The same qualities that make you successful in social settings will help you with social media. Below are some helpful tips.

  • Be yourself. With social media, it’s best to be authentic. People generally respond most to those whom they perceive as being genuine. Regardless of whether they agree or disagree with you, by being yourself, you will at least reveal your personality which helps start conversation.
  • Don’t worry about building a platform or a brand. People gravitate towards social media for interaction and connection, not to receive broadcast marketing messages or to simply follow carefully crafted statements. Make them feel that they have a personal connection with you.
  • Participate in conversations. Social media is about listening and responding to others, not just talking about yourself. Building an audience is artificial; letting one gather around you is organic.
  • Share what you love. Don’t limit yourself to posting content revolving around a limited subject matter. Share things across a variety of topics that entertain, engage, or excite you, but be sparing about sharing things that irritate or anger you.

Perfect Match
Writers are particularly suited to use social media because it relies on the ability to write compelling and interesting content. It’s all about the words. Most writers are also natural storytellers, a skill that meshes perfectly with this medium. Social media can also help relieve some of the isolation many writers face. Writing is a solitary occupation and social media can help connect you to potential clients, industry leaders, other writers, and readers.

Speaking of readers, most writers don’t have the opportunity to meet their readers, much less to find out what they like or don’t like, but they can do just that with social media. Engaging with readers can be fulfilling on a personal level, can increase audience retention, and can help you as the writer come up with new content ideas.

Victim of Your Own Success
Despite all of the positive aspects of social media, writers should be cautious about falling victim to common social media pitfalls, such as:

  • Distraction. Social media should supplement and support your writing life, not supplant it. If you’re spending more time on social media than you are on your writing, you probably need to re-evaluate your priorities and goals.
  • Over sharing. While you’re encouraged to share details of your personal and writing life, there is a line that you shouldn’t cross. Sharing uncomfortable personal details, the uninteresting minutiae of everyday life, or gloating about your successes (or rivals’ failures) can backfire and drive followers away.
  • Arguments, sour grapes, and unbridled criticism. Social media is not the place to start or engage in public squabbles or to air your dissatisfactions with your career, fellow writers, the industry, or life in general. Similarly, you shouldn’t use it to blast other writers’ work. Just like in the offline world, you should strive to maintain your professionalism online.

Making the “Write” Connections
Social media can be an incredibly effective tool and rewarding experience for writers who are looking to not only market themselves and their work, but to establish genuine connections with other people. Social media can also help you stay informed on developing trends and monitor longer term trends. For writers, it also makes for an excellent research resource. By tapping into the collective knowledge and experience in your network, writers can quickly gain new perspectives, contacts, suggested reading, reviews on products, and an array of other information. It’s a great way to connect with other writers, creatives, readers, and industry insiders, helping you take your career to the next level while meeting people and making friends along the way.

This article was written by Kaity Nakagoshi and provided by University Alliance, on behalf of the University of San Francisco’s online program.  They offer a variety of professional certification opportunities, including a master certificate in internet marketing and a specialized certificate in advanced social media training. To find out additional information please visit: http://www.usanfranonline.com.

Interested in contributing a guest blog post of your own? Check out the guest blogger guidelines.

Top image: sixninepixels / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Lessons from the 2010 ASJA Writing Conference

It’s been a whirlwind weekend of networking, coffee, pitch sessions, and schmoozefests. I arrived home last night from New York City, where I attended the American Society of Journalist and Author’s annual conference. Some of you who follow me on Twitter have seen my tweets, mostly sound bytes from the panels and speeches I attended. Now that I’ve had a chance to digest the information from the conference, I thought I’d share a few of the over-arching themes and tips that emerged.

  1. Think multi-platform. Several panelists and speakers bemoaned the death of print markets as we know them. Others suggested ways for entrepreneurial writers to capitalize on new technology by creating iPhone apps, eBooks, podcasts, online videos, and other products. It’s no longer enough to write great articles. Compelling stories can carry over from print to video and other media.
  2. Get social. But be transparent. Social media in varying forms came up in virtually every panel or speech. Some writer embrace it, some writers hate it, but the consensus was that we can’t afford to ignore it. During his keynote speech, Peter Shankman said, “bad writing is ruining America. Good writers will win at social media.” That got a round of applause! Shankman also emphasized the importance of transparency and relevance in social media. If you don’t give readers information in the format they want (be it RSS, email, vblogging, or podcasting), they’ll get it somewhere else.
  3. Buy the domain for your book title. This issue came up in multiple panels. I’m not actively pursuing a book deal yet, so I focused on panels for journalists rather than book authors. But panelists kept mentioning how important this is (one even bought the domain before the deal was formalized, just in case), so I filed this away for future reference.
  4. Think of yourself as a “content expert.” These days, most publishers insist on buying all rights to articles, which kills the writer’s chances of selling a reprint. Instead, one of the panelists urged writers to repackage all that research and knowledge, reslanting the piece for a different market. My blog readers know this isn’t a new idea, but the way she described us as “content experts” got me jazzed about revising my old articles for possible reslants.
  5. Remember, everything is negotiable. Given the rapidly changing media landscape, it’s understandable that some writers feel powerless to negotiate better contracts or payment terms. However, as the panelists in “Self Defense for the Self-Employed” pointed out, it’s still possible to negotiate. Beyond negotiating for more money, writers can ask to drop or alter indemnity clauses, adjust deadlines, and shorten the exclusivity time period.

Did you attend ASJA, too? What was your impression of the conference? Anything you’d add? Or if you didn’t attend, do you agree or disagree with these tips?