I don’t buy the idea that you can save your job as a reporter by saying you are on Twitter. I do, however, believe that Twitter is a fantastic tool for connecting with people and getting stories – but it’s a mammoth job if you don’t make use of some of the third-party tools out there which can do some of the work for you.
Here, I’ve created a list of six tools all regional journalists should at least play with. All have been chosen because I got them to work on quite small town areas – Chorley in Lancashire this time – rather than only in bigger cities, or around popular hashtags, as many tools do.
If you have any others, please add them at the bottom…
Still in Beta, but well worth requesting an invitation for. Geofeedia is a map-based service which allows you to select a place and see what content has been placed on social networks – mainly Twitter, Flickr, Youtube and Instagram. Potentially brilliant for keeping an eye on your patch – and appears to work in something approaching real-time too – I followed the Olympic torch through Congleton on it today!
Ifttt.com (if this then that) has made a lot of waves since launching late last year. It enables you to do all sorts of stuff automatically. Think automating tweets whenever you blog – but on a huge scale. It allows you to do all sorts – automatically store your tweets in Dropbox, for example.
For the purporse of this post, I’m focusing on the ability to pull in an RSS feed and then get a text message alert every time the RSS feed is updated. If you apply that to a Twitter search term, it means you can get a text message almost straight away.
Only one problem – Twitter made the RSS feed button for search terms or individual accounts disappear in its redesign last year. However, the problem is solved if you use a third-party Twitter search tool such as Topsy:
Click the RSS button (highlighted) and then copy and past the URL of the RSS feed into iffft.com. You’ll then get an update whenever a word or phrase is used – ideal if you are on the mood and REALLY need to be kept informed.
Alternatively, if it is a particular account you want to keep track of, insert this URL: http://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/user_timeline.rss?screen_name=davidhiggerson (changing out my name for the name of the account, of course).
Socialbro has a whole load of great bits of functionality and is worth installing just to learn more about how you Tweet and the impact you have. The functionality I want to focus on for this post is similar to the functionality you used to get on locafollow.com – which still exists, and is run by the same company. Once you’ve logged in and given Socialbro access to your Twitter account, click on the ‘discover Twitter users’ button, and then select ‘advanced’ search in the left-hand box. In the Bio or Location box, choose your area or keyword, and watch it bring up accounts which match. Using the filter on the bottom of the screen, you can then choose what order you want the results posted in – most recent tweets, or most active is a good place to start. Then just press click to follow – an easy way of ensuring you’re following people in your area.
I mentioned Twilert when doing the Social Media Advent Calendar in, er, December but have included it here now because I’ve since spotted the ‘advanced search’ option you get once you’ve logged in. Notice the compass:
It basically means you can pick a search term and then filter it to within a certain number of miles of a given area – in other words, a brilliant way to find out what people are saying about, say, Rossendale, within 20 miles of Rawtenstall, the main town in Rossendale. A good way of filtering out noise – a tool which only brings in tweets about Manchester from, er, Manchester in other words.
No, it’s not just data for the sake of it. If you use Tweetcharts to call up a key search term, such as the place you cover, it provides a wealth of information. Below the pie charts on this report are a number of other bits of interesting data, including ‘top words’ (good for making sure you’re picking up on the right phrases), ‘most mentioned users’ (and therefore the people you probably want to be connected with) ‘top hashtags’ (and the ones you’ll want to be using therefore in your tweets) and ‘top links’ (which may influence what you choose to write about)
Bottlenose has arguably the best name on this list – but it’s much more than that. At first glance, it feels a bit like Tweetdeck (but based in a browser, not desktop) or Hootsuite (only without the charges). But where Bottlenose, which is still in Beta, excels is its ability to make it easy to search a phrase, then add it to your ‘tracked searches.’ Whenever you go to the tracked search, you can select whether just to see the results as a regular feed, or get a visual display of popular phrases and hashtags being used – a great filter when there is a big story going on. It will also display the results as a ‘newspaper’ which makes them much more readable. The round number alert whenever new search results are found also makes it a useful tool.
The more I play with Bottlenose, the more I think it’s one of the best ways of using Twitter.