So you set up your Twitter profile you’ve followed a few dozen (or hundred) people, and they’ve followed you back. You’re tweeting your blog posts, chatting with other people with @replies and you’re starting to get the hang of this Twitter thing. If that’s you, read this post. I’ll be explaining how journalists can increase their influence on Twitter.
Once you get into Twitter and the initial burst of your enthusiasm fades, Twitter can get stale. Don’t let it. To make Twitter effective for journalism, you need to keep adding followers. But more importantly, you need to keep building your influence on Twitter. The goal isn’t really to have the most followers, although more followers are helpful. Your real goal is to say stuff on Twitter that people find so valuable that they retweet it. (That’s just Twitter parlance for when someone repeats what you tweeting, crediting you.) That’s how your influence can grow because it’s not just you tweeting about your blog post or interesting observation, it’s other people doing it, too. That increases your reach exponentially.
So how do you improve your influence on Twitter?
- Find out your influence: There are two places I find useful to do this. Retweet Rank lists the 10 people who get retweeted the most of all the millions of folks on Twitter. You can also put your Twitter name in to assess your retweet rank and find out who has recently retweeted you. (I explain more about Retweet Rank here.) I discovered another similar site, Retweetist, from Guy Kawasaki’s post about how to get retweeted. Retweetist also ranks the top folks getting retweeting, but it shows how many retweets they had. You can put your own name in and find out how many retweets you had on individual days.
- Build on what you find: If you find out nobody is retweeting you, don’t fret. It may mean you don’t have enough followers yet (or enough followers who are fluent in Twitter). So add more followers. The simplest way to add followers is to follow people because many will follow you back. You want followers interested in your topic, so bloggers who blog on the same topic you do; journalists who cover the same beat in different communities; readers of your blog and other blogs like yours; folks in your geographic community(Digg founder Kevin Rose offers 10 tips for boosting your followers, including fill out your bio (many people, myself included, won’t follow people if their bio is empty or sketchy); follow top Twitter users; promote that you’re on Twitter everywhere you can.) You also can learn great best practices from other journalists on Twitter. Be sure to follow everyone at your newspaper, but also journalists in other communities. Here’s a list of journalists on Twitter; it’s not comprehensive, but it will give you a start.
- Tweet regularly: I’m not saying you can never leave your computer. But to become an influence on Twitter, you need to engage. You engage by tweeting. Every day. Twitter is a conversation, so you can’t go days or weeks and say nothing and expect people to be thronging to hear your pearls of wisdom. My tweets tend to drop off on weekends and vacations, and I think that’s fine. But you can’t just swoop in, tweet a trial and then abandon Twitter until the next trial months later and expect to gain influence. That just comes across as if you’re using folks, not conversing with them.
- Start retweeting: As they say, to make friends, be a friend. To get retweeted, retweet. If someone you follow tweets an insightful link or observation, retweet it. Be generous. Karma will reward you. But don’t retweet junk. As Kawasaki explains: “The reason that retweeting is so flattering is that every time people do it, they are putting their reputation on the line. If their followers don’t like the retweet, their reputation is reduced.” Retweet value. He offers some great tips on types of tweets that are likely to get retweeted, such as breaking news (that’s right up our alley as journalists); the bizarre; tweets about Twitter; how-tos. TwiTip offers some more tips on getting retweeting, including keep your tweets short. Include a link in tweets and retweets, so it saves time for your readers. (Here’s where you can turn your big honkin’ link into a nice tiny one to fit into Twitter’s 140-character limit.) Certainly, help out your co-workers and retweet their tweets, but don’t stop there. To truly have influence on Twitter, you must retweet other newspapers’ stories and blogs that aren’t affiliated with news organizations; you must really join the conversation. Retweeting shouldn’t be just “me, me, me” or “my newspaper’s Web site, my newspaper’s Web site, my newspaper’s Web site.”
- Use retweet etiquette: While there’s no real Twitter stylebook (yet), some routines of use have developed. Dan Zarella offers a good list of the etiquette of retweeting, including repeating the name of the original tweeter to give credit where credit is due. For example, if I tweeted something under my Twitter name bloggingmom67, and you (joesmoe) wanted to retweet it, you would use this format: RT: @bloggingmom67 and then include the tweet. If a third person wanted to retweet, they’d type: RT: @bloggingmom67 via @joesmoe. The reason for following this routine is it makes you appear as if you know what you’re doing and you’re part of the Twitter community. And it helps get your name and the names of people you retweet out there, increasing influence. I also recommend thanking people who retweet you because it’s a way of forming another connection. (To find out who is retweeting you, just run your Twitter name through search.twitter.com every once in a while. I do it at least daily.)