Five Twitter tips for journalists

If you’re reading this post, my guess is you probably already have your own Twitter account, but social media expert Jeff Cutler has some thoughts on what’s good about Twitter as a journalistic tool and what could be better.

Tip #1

“Twitter is perfect for talking to a crowd and just getting your question out there and seeing what you get back,” Cutler told a group of journalists recently during a training session at the Bloomington Herald-Times.  “However, if you’re using it for a news source, it’s just a place to start.”

Cutler says the old rules of verification apply, especially with new media.   Once you find a tweet with potential news value, the real reporting begins.

Tip #2

Have your company account and a personal account.

“Corporate accounts are good for ‘broadcasting  messages’ – a personal account is good for engaging people, talking to them to source different things and to find out what they’re thinking,” Cutler said.

One of the drawbacks to Twitter, according to Cutler, is the difficulty users encounter when they try to communicate one-on-one.

“You cannot send a direct message to someone who is not following you,” Cutler said. “That’s  frustrating for reporters, if a source DMs you [and you’re not following them], it will bounce back.”

Tip #3

Make it easy for people to share your tweets.

Instead of using all 140 characters available for a tweet, consider keeping your tweet to 100 characters — that will make it easier to retweet (RT)  the info.

Tip #4

Don’t overdo the shouting.

Cutler suggests you monitor your ratio of “tweets that are broadcast or those that are just conversation.”  If all you ever do is push people to watch or read your stories, you’re not using social media to its fullest potential, according to Cutler.  He feels many news organizations and individual journalists are missing the point of Twitter.

Tip #5

Stay connected to other journalists.

Cutler suggests you begin to follow #journchat on Twitter to see what your colleagues are tweeting about.

Jeff Cutler has more than 5,000 people following him on Twitter.  He conducts workshops on social media through the Society of Professional Journalists Newsroom Training Program.


3 comments for “Five Twitter tips for journalists

  1. March 31, 2010 at 10:44 am

    This post is a good start. I think some other ways stations can maximize Twitter is by monitoring competing stations, and outlets Twitter feeds. An assignment editor or desk could set up a list to monitor what other stations are covering.

    Also reporters could use Twitter to communicate with a station about what’s happening in the field by using DM’s with a station manager.

    Reporters could use Twitter to share breaking news from the field or at least funnel the information to the news desk for Twitter publication.

    During breaking news, Twitter is huge. A station or reporters should be following any hashtags related to a breaking news event.

    Just some thoughts. I may blog about some of these ideas, now that you have my juices flowing.


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