Need-to-Know Twitter Tips for Journalists

As we’re hiring new staff members for every position from web producers to listings editors and transit reporters, a lot of my job at TBD will be devoted to bringing all those new hires – plus some of our existing staff from News Channel 8 and WJLA – up to speed on social media tools and practices.

I don’t think it’ll spoil anything to say we plan to use social media quite a bit in every aspect of TBD, so that training will be very important both before launch and as we go into the future and technology changes. Some of our staff, I imagine, will already have a rich background in social media use, while others may not be as comfortable just yet – so many levels of training will be vital.

I’m in the process of officially updating all of my documentation, so I’m in full resource re-evaluation mode. As I post on training plans, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on what you think is missing and offer your good examples of social media use you think we should take to heart.

Today – Twitter!

So most of us know now that Twitter is a rich way for reporters to connect with sources and readers as well as build their own brands. In addition to the basics of Twitter use, new users need to know how to find the right journalists, sources and locals to follow, using/understanding hashtags and how they can use Twitter for better reporting. I usually point newb reporters to the work of tweeting reporters on Muckrack and use the live presser tweets from @theHyperFix as a good example of live-tweeting.

There are a million great resources on using Twitter. I’ve collected quite a few I like to use.

The next logical step in Twitter training is using it’s vast amount of data to find information, track trends and find sources for stories. Sites like BackTweets, TweetGrid and Twitter’s own pretty formidable search engine can really help a journalist looking for people tweeting about [insert subject here] in their area and beyond.

Web Up The Newsroom recently had a great post about using Twitter search tools in reporting and sourcing that I think may be the best description of I’ve seen geared toward reporters.

Aside from the data search, Twitter’s geolocation data makes it easy to watch trends and tweets as they happen on a map – which is great if, say, news just broke in a certain area and you want to see what’s happening there from afar. I particularly like Bing’s Twitter maps (which can turn into quite a timesuck if you let it). SocialGreat is also nice if you just want to see what places seem to be trending across all the geolocation platforms.

If you’d rather see a list than a map of trending local topics, you could check your Twitter home page – or, better yet – check out Trendsmap (using data from another great site, What The Trend). A lot of the time, these are silly chain letter hashtags or obvious news (like how Gulf and Oil are trending here right now), but sometimes you can see reaction to real-time events pop up in these trend searches (check it out right after a celebrity death or during a big sporting event to see what I mean). Trendsmap also has a great visualizer.

If you know what keyword you’d like to track over a course of time, Trendistic has a decent trend graphing application.

Aside from Twitter, there’s obviously a lot of other social media we’ll want to use in our day-to-day operations…but that’s for another post, my friends.

In the meantime, what are your favorite tips and tricks, apps or uses for Twitter I should be sure to pass on as we start training?

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