In the early days of this blog, I wrote about how journalists can use Twitter on the job. This is an update.
Many of the same suggestions remain important, although I believe that Twitter’s potential benefit for journalists is even greater now than when I wrote that early post. I believe Twitter is useful — quite useful — for journalists to find sources, gather ideas for stories, and chat with readers. I know it works for my blog. I did a quick check of my 2010 stats, and found that 43% of my traffic comes from Twitter referrals. Wow!
The value for news organization is they can be constantly expanding the reach of their audience, rather than being content with just the folks who happen to live in their community. Yet, I know many journalists remain skeptical.
Recently, I taught an undergraduate class on how journalists can use Twitter. Afterward, I ran into newspaperman I know who adjuncts for the university. I told him I’d just taught a class on Twitter, and he said, “Did it take 30 seconds?”
I laughed, but inside I was cringing. Why are journalists — smart, dedicated newspeople — still resisting a tool that could help them do their jobs better? To me, it’s a bit like refusing to use a pencil to report on a fire in the rain, insisting instead to keep using a pen with ink that smears when it gets wet.
The most important lesson for journalists who want to use Twitter on the job is to get followers. Without a critical mass of followers, tweeting is like talking to yourself in a closet. This powerpoint offers some suggestions on building up followers and more on what to do once you get them. And if you haven’t read my Twitter etiquette rules, you might want to check them out.