A quick guide to Twitter and making it work for journalists

“People tell me that Twitter is a great way to get stories and make contacts but how do I find people who will be relevant to my work.”

That’s a question I’ve been asked several times in recent weeks, so I thought I’d throw together five points on making Twitter work for you. Only it’s actually six points. Stan Collymore, believe it or not, is a good example of someone who has made it work for him and his radio show.

The tips for doing this are simple:

1. Make sure you tell people who you are and – if you’re using it for work – what you do. Fill in the biography section, in other words

2. Twitter Search is a good way of finding people who are talking about things which interest you or interest you for work – simply search for the terms relating to your work and check the profiles of those who come up in the search results. If what they say interests you, follow them. (As the Silihillian points out below, once you have done this once you can grab an RSS feed of the results into your RSS reader)

3. If you’re more interested in finding people who live locally to you, then advanced Twitter Search does an ok job, as does Nearby Tweets but my favourite at the moment is locafollow – which searches by biographic location

4. This tip I originally heard from @Tim (Tim Bradshaw from the FT): Twitter is like being in the pub – you don’t just go in and shout for stuff, you make the time to get to know people and join in conversations. On Twitter, that could mean answering people’s questions, retweeting their tweets to your followers, and join in with other discussions.

5. Think before you Tweet. If you’ve set up your Twitter account to be a tool for work, then you’re associated with whatever publication (online or offline) that you work for.

6. Don’t get in a huff if someone is a bit sharp or rude back. Certainly don’t do a Stan and take your bat and ball home. Do as you would if it was a face-to-face discussion, decide if it’s worth replying or just moving on.

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12 comments

  1. I use twitter all the time in my newsgathering, combined with my RSS reader it’s a great way of keeping on top of all the stuff that’s going on in a location. Plus, if you’re ever having a quiet day then something is bound to pop up in either of those two and make a story.

    I find Twitter a great way of making connections, I find myself turning up at public/community/council meets and getting recognised by people as they follow me on twitter. They can put a name to a face, and a face to a name, and they like that.

    It’s important as well to not be afraid of having sometimes drank discussions about your content on Twitter – but the best thing to do is before the discussion goes too far just drop the person a DM or ask them to call/email to sort out whatever problem they have. Twitter is often used as a way of complaining about something e.g. a story, a headline. It’s important to be transparent.

    1. Thanks Ed. Agree about the need to be open and honest on Twitter – people get found out quickly if they aren’t

  2. quick question.
    I don’t have any mobile internet capacity. How much do you think this limits exploiting Twitter? I’m still trying to optimise it (second time and still finding it difficult to get going)

    1. @kangarookicker I think that limits it a lot, you’ll find your most interesting tweets are when you’re out and about and you see something, or snap a photo of something interesting. Plus you can offer live insight through your tweets from events you’re at.

    2. Ed’s beaten me to this. It does limit you, but it doesn’t rule you out. You can set your phone up so that you can send tweets via SMS to your Twitter account. It makes for one way updates when you’re out and about, but a lot of people use it that way.

  3. Sound advice. We particularly find using #tags and compiling “news sources” lists (entering people or organisations who most are likely to discuss or flag up issues of interest to our own audiences).

    Best! 8-)

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