Making Twitter Work for Reporting

Despite its reputation, Twitter is not just to tell people what you had for breakfast. Journalists willing to learn the tool well can also use Twitter to:

  • Monitor the activities and interactions of people you cover
  • Crowdsource stories by asking your followers for ideas or info
  • Quickly find people who witnessed or experienced an event
  • See what people are talking about right now
  • Live report from the scene of a news event
  • Drive traffic to your content

So, how do you do that? Tweets you might send:

  • If you want info, say so. Simply tweet: “Trying to find someone who…” or “Anyone out there know…” Ask for re-tweets.
  • Tweet out links to your work or links to other content you find funny, interesting or relevant to your beat that you’d like to pass on.
  • Keep readers abreast of what you’re working on.
  • Share what you are doing or where you are only if you think the people reading will find it interesting. Maybe you’re on location for a notable meeting or event or meeting with someone interesting.
  • If you are at a location or event where news is developing, tweet out the details. Notable quotes, questions asked, who’s there, what’s happening. Note: If you are going to “live tweet” a planned event, it’s a good idea to warn your followers ahead of time.
  • Reply to the people who talk to you on Twitter – and respond to their tweets if they say something interesting on their account. You don’t have to reply to everyone if you get a lot of incoming tweets, but if they ask a question, be sure to answer it.
  • Publicly ask questions of specific sources or readers if you know their Twitter names.
  • Share notable tweets from those you follow by re-tweeting.
  • Tweet as if you were talking to a friend (and not like a TV promo or a robot). People want to follow you on Twitter not only for info, but also to “get” you as a person, so some degree of breeziness is encouraged.

Sharing Links

Twitter is an ideal place not only to share links to your work, but also what you’re reading, info related to your beat and work you admire from others.

  • Always shorten your links using a link shortening service like that at tinyurl.com or bit.ly.
  • Preface shared links with a headline or some introduction. Ex: Interesting take on net neutrality: http://bit.ly/khkhfdkkh
  • If you see a tweet or link you liked, re-tweet rather than rewrite. It’s nice.

Other Posts on Twitter

Twitter Signup and Account Setup

Intro to Twitter for Journalists (6/2010)

Data Mining Twitter for reporting (6/2010)

Need-to-Know Twitter Tips for Journalists (6/2010)

My own collection of suggested links about Twitter and social media for journalists is on Delicious.

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