Swearing. Your parents might have told it’s not big or clever … but when it comes to getting the most out of Twitter, a tactical use of f***, f***ing or s**t could take you a very long way. Joanna Geary, head of news partnerships at Twitter, proved two things when she spoke at the Revival of Local Journalism conference in MediaCity on Wednesday. The first was that the best way to keep a conference audience awake as they enter their post-lunch sleepy phase is to say the thing they least expect. The second was that to get the most out of Twitter, you have to understand the people you are following and how they use Twitter. Which is why a clever Tweetdeck column with a selection of choice words set up as the filter can be the difference between you spotting that first reference to a big story, and just being part of the pack: Slide 19 in the presentation above explains this brilliantly – right down to the phrases to filter out – so if you have a search set up for ‘dead’ filter out ‘I’m dead’ because, as Joanna said, if you’re were actually dead, you wouldn’t be writing that on Twitter. Joanna began her journalistic career on the Birmingham Post and was an advocate of social media long before it was widely accepted as an essential part of a journalist’s toolkit. She turned this to her advantage and built a strong network of contacts who, because they could find and talk to her on Twitter, would give her the heads up on stories they had heard about. Fast forward nearly a decade and it would be easy to say that it’s impossible to have such a competitive advantage on Twitter (or Facebook for that matter) because so many journalists are on there. The presentation above shows that assumption not to be the case. It’s one thing to be on Twitter, quite another to be making the most of it. The lesson here is simple – it’s not enough just to be posting links on Twitter or using it as a way of harvesting stories. Just as a good reporter knows they’ll get more stories from a council chamber if they attend the meetings rather than watching the video streaming (an excellent point made at the Revival of Local Journalism conference by Phyllis Stephen, editor of the hyperlocal site Edinburgh Reporter), so to a journalist who invests time in making the most of Twitter will get more out of it. Many reporters might have a Tweetdeck search field for ‘Nottingham’ but how many would have ‘Nottingham’ and ‘WTF’ – a reaction you may often see in a tweet where a member of the public is relaying something dramatic they’ve seen – along with the f***, f***ing, s**t and so on. And that’s the difference between a journalist ‘doing’ Twitter and a journalist who ‘gets’ Twitter. The latter knows how people speak on Twitter, and how to make the most of that. By way of an example, Joanna referred to the Clutha helicopter crash in Glasgow before Christmas. The first person to contact the first person to mention it on Twitter, and subsequently post a picture wasn’t from the UK media – it was someone called Micah Grimes from ABC in America. His use of Twitter was such that he picked up on the right Tweet before other journalists piled in looking for information about the crash, probably after receiving a ring in or tip off. That’s one heck of a competitive advantage to have, as the SubScribe blog documents here. Like so much else in journalism now, it’s about knowing your audience and how they behave. Any journalist doing that well will always maintain a competitive advantage.