I think Twitter can be one of the more useful interactive Web tools for media organizations. So when Old Media New Tricks offered some right-on-point suggestions for how news organizations can use Twitter, I just had to blog about it.
Journalists on Twitter
OMNT’s post raises some key points about Twitter, particularly for journalists, such as:
- Follow people who follow you.
- Respond to tweets.
- Don’t shy away from linking to your competition.
- Don’t use a twitter feed.
All four suggestions sort of fly in the face of the traditional journalistic wisdom to be detached from the reader, pretend the competition has no value and tell readers what you want in your way not theirs. As the post says, “Change that.”
We journalists really must alter existing attitudes if we are going to successfully use Twitter to reach and interact with new readers through it. (And if you need some convincing about how Twitter can help journalists, read this).
Twitter is not just a subscription to a newspaper’s blog. People on Twitter want more than that; they want to converse, engage, even argue at times. For news organizations to jump into that world, they must shed the idea of being the outsider looking in.
That can be hard, but the truth is Twitter isn’t journalism. It’s just one of many tools that can help journalists.
Be a human being, darn it
Part of this engagement, I think, is news organizations need to convey to our readers that we are made up of humans just like them. That’s why Twitter feeds, which automatically tweet every blog post headline, are ill-advised in my mind. A Twitter feed is hardly different than an RSS feed really, and it comes across as like a computer is doing it because, guess what, a computer is doing it.
Human beings respond to human beings. Twitter can be a great way for journalists to get to know their readers — their likes and dislikes, their interests – and for readers to get to find out the same about journalists. That’s what networking is really about.
As marketer Jim Connolly points out on Jim’s Marketing Blog: “If you network with a group of people, even influential people, but they don’t really ‘know’ you and you have no real relationship with them; they are highly unlikely to be of any tangible value to you or your business.”
So don’t waste your time on Twitter if you can’t make at least some personal investment.
What about lunch?
That’s why you shouldn’t tweet only links to your blog or news stories. Would you want to converse with someone who only talked about the recession, whether Caroline Kennedy might become a New York senator or the whole Gov. Rod Blagojevich mess in Illinois? I wouldn’t, and I’m a news junkie. People want a little small talk in their Twitter.
Now, the question nearly every Twitter naysayer seems to raise is: “Why would someone care about what you had for lunch?”
Well, because we all eat lunch. Now I wouldn’t want a million tweets a day about lunch, but on occasion I will tweet that I’m going for sushi with my husband or I just had a great burrito. I always get @replies to my lunch tweets. Why? Because it’s like talking about the weather. Everyone can do it. It’s an ice breaker. It’s a way to get to know people.
I’d love to get to know you, so come follow me on Twitter. And let me know what you think in a comment. (If you’re brand-new to Twitter, here’s how to get started.)
Edited at 10 p.m. Jan. 13: Just found two more blog posts, both with good synopsis of Twitter’s usefulness for journalists.
- Kirk LaPointe, managing editor of The Vancouver Sun, notes he gets ideas for his blog and his newspaper from Twitter and learns about some events more quickly on Twitter than from the news wires.
- Robert Niles at Online Journalism Review calls Twitter “absolute information crack” and advises: “Throw in Twitter’s value as the ideal medium for breaking news, and you’re crippling your online publishing effort by not participating.”