Twitter bird
Credit: By shawncampbell on Flickr. Some rights reserved
"Twitter and news have a very special relationship," said Vivian Schiller, head of news for Twitter North America, speaking at today's Social Media Summit in London.

In a keynote speech alongside head of news for Twitter UK Joanna Geary, Schiller outlined what she called the "Twitter news compass", representing how news cycles exist on the platform.

Here are the key points:

1. Detect

"The power of Twitter is in the data," said Schiller, adding that with 500 million tweets are sent every day, the platform is a potential "goldmine" for breaking news.

She cited the US Airways Flight 1549, which landed on the Hudson River, as just one example of news that had broken first on Twitter.

A good way for journalists to detect stories is to take note of Twitter trends, she said, and particularly to identify stories that are "pre-trending".

As an example,Geary pointed to Dataminr, the platform currently being developed in partnership with Twitter and CNN, which will enable news outlets to detect "signals" that a "story is beginning to bubble up, before it actually breaks".

Twitter can help you reach untold numbers of peopleVivian Schiller, Twitter
Showing how different search columns in Tweetdeck can also be used to monitor tweets, Geary also noted that journalists should track the sort of language people use, including obscenities, when posting about a shocking or significant event on Twitter, to help them identify breaking news.

Schiller added that shifts in public opinion were also a good way to identify when a story was about to break, although admitted that it was challenging to measure sentiments expressed within tweets due to "nuances" in text and language.

Twitter is currently working on ways to help journalists get a better sense of general shifts in public opinion, she said.

2. Report

Twitter is a key reporting tool for journalists in terms of enabling them to identify sources and eye-witnesses, and secure rights to use photographs posted by people at the scene, Schiller said.

However, she added, in many cases journalists are also using the platform for real-time reporting.

"Through robust algorithms and tools [Twitter] can get you to the last mile of the story... before you need to pick up the phone," she said.

However, the proliferation of information from social media being used in reporting also brought with it the extra responsibility of verification.

News Corp's acquisition of Storyful for $23m in December 2013 shows "how valued really good verification techniques are," she said.

3. Distribute

"Twitter can help you reach untold numbers of people," said Schiller.

Journalists can use Twitter to distribute their content to the widest possible audience by growing their followers, importing content from Twitter into their own platform through 'collections' and by taking advantage of Twitter's Amplify programme.

Geary cited the example of Peter Jukes, who live tweeted the phone hacking trial, to show how live reporting can also be used to help journalists build a following.

At the peak of the phone hacking trial, Jukes's Twitter account had just under 12,000 followers.

Twitter collections allow users to embed custom timelines from Twitter into their own website – something which can also be used to display older tweets when re-visiting historical stories, she said.

4. Engage

"The social part of Twitter comes in many forms," said Schiller. "How do get people talking about your story? To show them them that you're sharing with your audience what you're doing on the scene, what you're experiencing, what you're feeling?"

Using Twitter as a medium to have two-way conversations with your audience is a good way to boost your brand and build loyalty to your journalists and reporting, she said.

Geary highlighted Guardian journalist Jon Henley's Twitter-led series Greece on the breadline as a good example of how Twitter can be used to crowdsource information from other social media users in order to involve the audience and provide a fresh perspective.

Henley used the hashtag #EuroDebtTales to allow Twitter users to contribute their own stories and experiences to his reports.

  At this point, the news compass comes "full circle", said Schiller, because "these are the people [the audience] who are your reporters".

"The audience is now part of the news process and at Twitter we want to be a tool for that."-->

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