Ivan Lajara has started collecting the first tweets of Digital First folks, it’s been a fun exercise.
Twitter tips, tools and rants.
Ivan Lajara has started collecting the first tweets of Digital First folks, it’s been a fun exercise.
Next week, the Digital First Interactives team is heading to Connecticut to do a training extravaganza at the New Haven Register. Data Editor Tom Meagher is giving training on data journalism, Video Editor Yvonne Leow on video and video strategy, and Curation Editor Julie Westfall on breaking news workflows and storytelling. I’ll be giving some focused training on social media – particularly on making it more, well, social.
I’ve had many an editor begrudgingly admit there’s a recurring problem with their reporter and newsrooms Twitter accounts being a little too….robotic. As in, they mimic an RSS feed with a full stream of headline-and-link tweets. No retweets, no questions, no fun.
So I’m looking for some fresh examples of tweets sent by individual local reporters and newsroom accounts that really seek to engage readers around the news. I’ve been collecting some examples in the Storify below, but I’d love suggestions of more up-to-date examples from you, your friends, colleagues and followed journalists. Leave your suggested tweets as links in the comments, or tweet them my way @mjenkins.
On August 6 around 2 a.m. local time, a NATO helicopter carrying U.S. Special Forces troops crashed in eastern Afghanistan.
The Washington Post had a reporter in person and on the story – but it took a long time for anyone to notice on its social media channels.
A student from my summer social media class at Georgetown University, Katie Bridges, made the following Storify about what happened for a class assignment. I wanted to highlight it here as a lesson, of sorts, to see how social media is still being figured out at news orgs of all sizes.
What should we learn from this? For one, that someone should always be assigned to watching the Twitter feeds of staff reporters (even on weekends). Since that isn’t always possible, at the very least there should be a behind-the-scenes communication in place to make sure the work of reporters on the ground is highlighted and re-tweeted for a larger audience in situations like this.
All of that is most likely in place at the Post and it just failed in this case (hey, it happens). WaPo is a big publication with a lot of reporters and a sizable social media staff – and it can sometimes be a comfort to know that even the big guys are still figuring out social media in their news flow.
Last week I went over a few tips for setting a social media strategy and persona for your news org’s branded account(s) and tips for using those accounts as a brand. Today, let’s get into audience engagement on social media tools. These tips have served me well as both a brand and as an individual, helping me to establish great relationships on the old internets.
Responding: I’d suggest you try to always respond to those who reach out to the brand on Twitter or Facebook with questions, criticism and tips. You can respond via private direct message (if they follow you) or outward replies. If you’re squeamish about public replies, remember: Unless a Twitter user is following both parties, they will not see this interaction in their streams. If the reply is something you think other followers may be interested in, you might want to re-tweet the question/comment and answer it outright.
Note: After you DM a user, you will need to follow them from the brand’s account if you want a reply via direct message. People cannot direct message you unless you are following them.
News Tips: If someone sends a good news tip via Twitter, Facebook or by email, ask them follow-up questions (if necessary) and be sure to publicly acknowledge their contribution. You may want to re-tweet the tip once you have verified it.
Ask for help: If you want a photo or info from the scene of a story, ask for it from your followers.
Be thankful: Treat those supplying you with information as a respected friend – and they just might end up becoming regular tipsters and brand evangelists. If you get a news tip, photo or other info you’d like to use from your followers, be sure to thank and/or credit the user by name in social media messages and the story itself. Credit them on Twitter with (h/t @theirname) or similar when the link is shared. If you use a photo, make sure they are credited in the cutline.
Questions: If someone asks the branded account a question, answer it as soon as you have time (or ask someone else to do so). If you don’t know the answer, tell them you’ll find out and get back to them.
Criticism: If someone offers criticism, address it, even if only to say you’ll pass it to the right person internally. Try to avoid an extended back-and-forth with Twitter users and don’t get into embarrassing Twitter arguments. Once it seems to be approaching a point of no end, take the conversation offline.
Corrections: If you made a mistake, like a misspelled name, wrong link or factual error, it’s best to correct it in a follow-up tweet. Do not erase the first tweet unless you absolutely feel you must – and not without some acknowledgement of the mistake.
Start the conversation: Instead of always offering up a headline and link, add a question element when appropriate. Like, “What’s your favorite”, “do you agree” or whatever. If you want this to be an ongoing topic for the day, you may want to start a hashtag to accompany it.
Responses: If someone gives you a particularly good response, RT it with a link back or some notation as to what it’s about. Example: RT @someguy I think it’s a bad idea. // What do you think of Md’s new traffic law? http://bit.ly/ghgkg
Note: This is an especially good way to keep an ongoing topic going throughout the day. Use this to keep a hashtag going instead of tweeting out a boring old headline on the same thing again.
Last week, I taught a mobile journalism workshop as part of APME’s Newstrain seminar at the Newseum here in Washington, D.C. While I’m not a mobile journalist per se, I am a journalist that loves my smartphone. The class was aimed at those who are new to most mobile news gathering, reporting and publishing apps and practices – with and without smartphones.
We got into:
As part of the training, I gave out a handout of entry-level mobile tools for gathering media, reporting news, publishing and being productive on the go. I gathered these from my own experiences and those of other online savvy journos I know. Check it out (also after the jump) – and tell me what, if anything, you’d add.
Pew released a new study on Twitter demographics today that found only 8 percent of Americans on the web use Twitter. Of that 8 percent, only 2 percent use Twitter on a typical day. Keep in mind that about 74 percent of American adults are internet users, meaning that the Twitter users make up about 6 percent of the entire adult population.
This news shouldn’t be surprising, but maybe it is to those who live in the Twitter echo chamber.
When all of your friends, your coworkers, your spouse and the media you consume are on Twitter, it may seem logical to believe a great deal of America is as well. This is a dangerous assumption for journalists and media organizations to make – and I know I’ve been guilty of it from time to time.
While I still think it is very important for journalists to use Twitter, the following facts must be emblazoned on the brains of media Twitterati:
Now, the study. The Pew study did find some interesting demographic tidbits that should be making us rethink how we approach the tool.
I hate these long gaps between posts as much as you do. I’ve been busy over at TBD, but I haven’t forgotten about the old ZJ.
I have a couple of other posts in the works, but a bit of a recap. Last Wednesday, Sept. 1, was a big day for TBD – and for me personally. When a gunman burst into the Discovery Channel headquarters in Silver Spring and took three hostages, we sprang into action and, in turn, were propelled into the spotlight for the first time since our launch.
It was my first real breaking news situation since starting at TBD – and the first I’ve ever experienced in a TV newsroom. Within minutes of hearing from a TV reporter’s wife (who works at the Discovery site) about the situation, we had a helicopter and live reporting on-scene. You don’t get helicopters at the Cincinnati Enquirer, so that was pretty mind-blowing.
Within minutes we were getting in photos and eyewitness reports from Twitter. We were streaming video online before anyone else – heck, it was even used on other news sites in our area. As things were confirmed, I was able to tweet them out ASAP. I had a lot of back-and-forth communication going on with our staff, some of our blogger partners on-scene and other eyewitnesses on Twitter (a few we even got to talk live on-air). In short, it was an amazing time to be behind the Tweetdeck.
We sent 21 tweets on the situation that day. According to the Bivings Report, we were mentioned/re-tweeted 334 times. We got more than 400 new followers, a boost in web traffic – and a lot of wonderful praise from our audience and peers. My favorite tweet was from Justin Karp:
@TBD is having their CNN/Gulf War moment right now. They’re dominating coverage right now. Kudos.
All that praise and warm fuzzies aside – it proved once again that monitoring and using Twitter in breaking news is increasingly important for any news operation. Twitter “broke the story”, we all know that – and for better or worse it owned the coverage in a lot of ways. We in the news media can only engage the best and stream the rest when something like this happens in such rapid-fire succession. It was a day of lessons for us and every media outlet, I’m sure.
In the days afterward, I was working with others to determine who wrote that first tweet from the building and when it was sent, not only to give them credit, but also to see just how far behind we were. We had our first tweet out at 1:33 pm, about 20 minutes after the first tweet we found. We can do better – and next time we will.
It can be tough to be a new brand these days. Locking down namespace online is a huge part of a brand build – but much like potential mates, all the good ones seem to be taken.
We ran into that when we started building the brand for the soon-to-launch TBD. It’s a popular acronym, as everyone knows, so securing that namespace in social media was quite challenging. Though we’ve been tweeting for nearly two months as @TBDDC, this week we finally acquired @TBD. This is how it went down.
We wanted @TBD from the start, but it was occupied by a private, dormant account with zeroes across the board – no followers, no follows and no tweets.
Obviously, the first step in this scenario is to try to contact the handle owner. From my own account, I requested to follow this user to see if they were checking their notifications. Either they weren’t checking or I was rejected, because I never heard back.
I also sent the user a couple of @ replies to see if they were even checking those. No response.
It was time to turn to Twitter.
When you want to take this next step, it’s important to note Twitter’s policies in relation to your situation.
If someone is actively using the handle you want in accordance with the rules, there’s little Twitter can do, even if you have a trademark on the name.
Where there is a clear intent to mislead others through the unauthorized use of a trademark, Twitter will suspend the account and notify the account holder.
When an account appears to be confusing users, but is not purposefully passing itself off as the brand/company/product, the account holder will be notified and given an opportunity to clear up any potential confusion, per the guidelines listed below.
Contacting the user directly is really your only hope to getting the name in this instance.
If you want to acquire the handle of an inactive account, as we did, it really helps to have a registered trademark on the name. We did not have our trademark registration info right away, but I still submitted a ticket request to have the name released.
Once we got our trademark registration information, I filed another ticket, this time under the trademark policy. This time I filled out the required trademark info. To do this, our Twitter account had to be linked to an email address from our domain (an important thing to note if you have a business or blog without a URL yet). This was the final thing that pushed it over the top and got us @TBD.
If you don’t have a trademark registration, you may still have a chance, though note this important point in Twitter’s inactive username policy:
We are currently working to release all inactive usernames in bulk, but we do not have a set time frame for when this will take place. If a username you would like has been claimed by an account that seems inactive, you should consider selecting an available variation for your use on Twitter.
Even so, it wouldn’t hurt to submit a ticket request from your account to report the inactive name.
When and if you get a username opened up, you can easily change your Twitter handle to the new one without affecting your followers, lists or settings. You can do this from the Account tab of your account Settings. In our case, Twitter rolled @TBDDC over to @TBD for us.
When you change your Twitter handle, you have to be vocal about the change. If you can do it before the changeover, tell your followers what’s coming. After the change, they’ll receive your tweets at the new handle, but they may not realize the difference and may send replies and DMs to your old handle. Tweet about the change and encourage retweets. It might not hurt to briefly re-secure your old handle and put up a message there about the new account.
Note: If you get a second handle for this purpose, be good citizen and don’t name-squat. After a couple of weeks or so, if you aren’t going to use this account for something else, delete it and re-open the name.
But even if you don’t get the handle you want, you shouldn’t let it stop you from jumping into social media. It wasn’t a deterrent for TBD – we were able to build a lot of buzz on @TBDDC before we got the new name (and we were prepared to have that name be permanent).
If you can’t get the username of your brand, think of a way to make your own version. Shorten it, add an adjective or adverb, tack on a location or do something entirely out-of-the-box. It really isn’t all in a name. It all depends on how you use the medium and how well you can promote it elsewhere.
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:
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.
Intro to Twitter for Journalists (6/2010)
Data Mining Twitter for reporting (6/2010)
It’s downright amazing what you can find out from Twitter’s formidable search engine. Here’s just some of what you can do with Twitter’s publicly available feeds:
• See what’s happening on your beat: Basic, but no less awesome. Follow the Twitter feeds of any agencies, officials and other contacts on your beat.
• Find people on the scene or read reactions to events: Twitter has an excellent built-in search engine that allows you to search by keywords, location, date and more. It’s a gold mine to the journo who takes the time to search correctly.
More: Even if you aren’t searching for a particular topic, a Twitter search is a great way to do a fishing expedition for events (try searching for crash, fire, hurt, etc.). Also be sure to try common misspellings in the keyword search.
• Search for someone at a particular place: Use the Twitter search with Foursquare or Gowalla to find an eyewitness in a particular location at the time news occurred. Search for the name of the location or keyword with added operators for 4sq or gowal.la. Like this.
• See what topics are trending nationally and locally: Your home page on Twitter will show you what’s trending right now either network wide or by your location. Also check out Trendsmap (using data from another great site, What The Trend). For instance, check out this local trendsmap data to see what topics keep coming to the top of Twitter in the DC area right now.
• Watch real-time reaction: Twitterfall is a great site for watching developing reactions and trends. Watch one of the trending topics or search for keywords to see them “fall” in as they’re tweeted.
• Get a photo from the scene: There are lots of sites that allow you to search Twitter photos, but plugging twitpic OR yfrog OR flickr OR tweetphoto (plus a location or keyword) into Twitter Search will also turn up a lot of pictures. See one you’d like to use? Be sure to ask.
The sites here are just the tip of the iceberg – there are thousands more apps out there using this network to display useful trends and info.
Excellent recommended post on the subject from Web Up The Newsroom.
When you’ve spent your entire professional career in a newspaper’s newsroom, it’s pretty easily to get your mind blown at a startup. I can attest to that firsthand in my first few days on the job at TBD.
Instead of shoehorning some new media approach into a centuries-old tradition, we’re building something so new, it’s still somewhat intangible – and that’s the fun part. It’s also sort of terrifying.
Because we haven’t launched yet, there are no deadlines, per se (which is a tough adjustment from my last few years working in breaking news). Our deadline for now is launch – and then infinite thereafter as we continue to add new features and tweak tools.
Right now, there are no rules, but I wouldn’t call it lawless, either. All of us currently involved with TBD have extensive experience in news and/or the social sphere. We know the framework of what we’re working toward, the rest is totally up for grabs.
In the past few days, I’ve been in several meetings with the rest of the community engagement staff where we have been brainstorming TBD’s processes for reader participation, community newsgathering and the all-important continuous breaking news. There are only five of us in a room, but it’s a hurricane of what-ifs and how-about-wes.
Not once has anyone said, “We can’t do that” or “That isn’t possible”. That’s a great feeling.
I know those times are coming. Some ideas will make it and others won’t. For now, though, I’m just trying to get a word in edgewise in a newsroom full of energy and rapid-fire ideas.
In addition to these sessions, we’re crowdsourcing our TBD plans, so if you have ideas you’d like to share, please do.
The community hosts are already miles ahead of me, working hard to recruit good bloggers for our network. I, on the other hand, am desperately trying to catch up.
I’ve found being the social media producer for a website that doesn’t exist in a city that doesn’t know you is a pretty tall order. All that community I built around myself in Cincinnati is now far, far away – so now the new task is cracking the Twitter code of this area.
In preparation to launch the TBD Twitter account(s) in the near future, I’m currently working on building up my own DC base on Twitter, figuring out who to follow for breaking news, community tips, laughs and tips about cheap beer. I’m working on finding the “nodes” (as my former editor was fond of calling them), that is, the Kevin Bacons on the metro DC social media sphere who are followed by and follow everyone important.
That’ll take some time, I know. I’m just not very patient. Have ideas/suggestions? You know the drill.
Page 1 of 3