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 syracuse.com. (She could also check the hot topics on Twitter at search.twitter.com 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.