Nine ways a journalist uses Twitter

So you’ve signed onto Twitter, but how do you use it as a journalist? I’ve written about this before and offered some suggestions, but I think it needs repeating. I keep hearing journalists say: “But I don’t get it.”


A co-worker and friend of mine came up with a pretty comprehensive list of how she uses Twitter. I liked it so much, I asked her if I could share it with you. She agreed. I love her list because it’s hands-on; it’s not theory. She’s doing it. Really. And so can you.

So here are nine ways to use Twitter as a journalist, courtesy of Amber Smith, a veteran journalist who writes and blogs about health and fitness for the The Post-Standard in Syracuse, New York. (The words are hers; the commentary in italics and some subheads are mine.) Follow her on Twitter.

  • Keep up to speed on breaking news. I “follow” a variety of news organizations, many of which have a health or science focus, which post to Twitter automatically whenever anything is posted on their Web site. This saves me from having to surf all over the Web and check a dozen sites multiple times a day. In addition, many of the other folks I “follow” are news junkies, and they actively “retweet” news they see/hear about. This is in many ways more important than the news feeds because it’s what real people are interested in.
  • Getting response from readers: I have a “following” of close to 450 people, which is more people than subscribe to my newsletter. I can reach these people virtually immediately, if I’m in search of, say, a pretty salad bar to photograph for a story about making healthy salad par picks, or, say, a gym that offers the new Zumba fitness class. And, depending on the subject, I can count on some replies. It’s usually faster than sending e-mail.
  • Getting story ideas: I receive news tips/ press releases/ information from followers through “direct messaging,” so that I’ve connected with readers who are comfortable with this type of technology. They’re not the same people who pick up a phone, and they’re not even necessarily the same people who send e-mail. (The point here is that readers get to decide how to connect with us; rather than the newspaper deciding for them.)
  • Promoting her blog: When I post something to my blog, I drive up traffic to my blog by also posting a link (with a clever 140-word introduction or teaser) on Twitter. Sometimes I see health or fitness news items being talked about on Twitter, so I create a post on my blog on the same topic, and then go back to Twitter with a new “tweet” linking to my blog, to drive additional hits to (She could also check the hot topics on Twitter at or Twitscoop.)
  • Expanding followers: When I get a lull, I go searching for new people to follow on Twitter. Sometimes I look for people who have a connection to (her local community).Other times I look for people with a health or fitness interest. As I increase the number of people I follow, the number of people who follow me, rises, as well. This can boost my blog hits. (People who regularly tweet their blog posts can see significant readership growth from that.)
  • Boost newsletter subscriptions. When my newsletter comes out, I tweet  a link for people to subscribe on my blog. When I offer a good prize in a contest, I tweet a link to my blog for people to enter.
  • Use Twitter to update Facebook status: Every tweet I put on Twitter, along with its link, goes automatically onto my Facebook page. The people I “friend” on Facebook are, by and large, different than those I “follow” on Twitter. (So she’s expanding her audience.)
  • Crowdsourcing: Periodically, I’ll ask the Twitter universe (along with readers of my blog, newsletter AND column in the good old newsprint) for their best tips on, say, staying full when they’re dieting. I get responses on Twitter, Facebook, on my blog, and by telephone, showing, I think, of being able to interact in multiple ways.
  • Being myself: People on Twitter will rapidly “un-follow” you if they suspect you are only following them in order to promote your “product,” in my case, my blog. So, I make certain to throw in tweets about other news and other ordinary mundane events. I also make certain to interact with as many people on Twitter as I have time for. (Twitter is a conversation, not broadcasting.)

How do you use Twitter?


By the way, I’m now @GinaMChen on Twitter. Come follow me.

8 thoughts on “Nine ways a journalist uses Twitter

  1. Pingback: In Praise of Twitter? « quarter-life crisis

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  3. I have a question about quoting tweets in newspaper articles. I was struck in the recent Ft. Hood shootings how newspaper articles quoted Kimberly Munley’s tweets. I’m assuming they didn’t have her permission because she was wounded, but I also assume you don’t need permission to quote someone’s tweets. What’s your take on that?

  4. Interesting question. My gut says it’s a bad idea to quote tweets because you have no way to verify who the person is. The twitter handle may be Kimberly Munley, but how do you know it’s really her.

    However, I’d argue tweets are public, so — while I’m not a lawyer — it seems like a person couldn’t really claim that he or she needs to give permission.

    I think it’s more a ethics issue — than privacy. As a journalist, I’d stay away from quoting tweets unless.

    1. I’m really sure the person is who I think it is.
    2. I’m quoting them anonymously just to give a sense of what people are saying about a topic that’s not libelous. (For example, if you wanted to make the point that a reason snowstorm was huge, you could, I think, reaonsably quote tweets that say ..”I’ve never seen this much snow.”)

  5. as a journalist I’ve recently joined twitter for ALL of the above reasons and I’m finding it to work great – and I’m quickly building up a following too

    It really is a great tool for finding cutting edge material for new stories

  6. Well, as we all know, social media sites are the most in demand means to update people about everything. Their strategy gives something very useful to the network or newspaper they are connected.

  7. Nice article! i think a lot of people don’t know how to use twitter. They make a account but after they don’t now how to use.

    Any idea how many unused Twitter account there are out there:)….a lot!

    But anyway….for newbies a good list to work with!

  8. I think these uses can be applied to all Twitter users, even keeping track of the breaking news is something not only journalists should do.
    Nevertheless, you explained it very clearly.
    May I still wonder why you would forward all your Tweets to Facebook? Isn’t Twitter supposed to be Twitter and Facebook supposed to be Facebook? There uses are definately not similair to me.

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