With 332 million users worldwide, Twitter has come a long way since Jack Dorsey, co-founder, announced he was “just setting up my twttr” ten years ago.
The site's features have long been leveraged by journalists who are looking to use the platform to source and share news, and there are countless ways for news organisations to use it to their benefit.
Here are five steps you can take that will help you use Twitter more effectively in your work:
1. Understand the platform, and why people use it
In order to best engage with your audience on Twitter, it's important to appreciate how the platform is being used, and the reasons that people tweet out from their personal accounts.
Joanna Geary, former head of news partnerships at Twitter UK and now EMEA Lead for Twitter Moments, told delegates of news:rewired last year that the site should be treated as a “passion and interest index” that can showcase people’s emotions in a broader spectrum.
"Social media may be new, but human beings and their emotions are not and we should understand that we don’t operate just in black and white," she said.
Twitter lists are a great way to manage what content you see one the platform, and you can filter this to your specific needs.
Journalists can use tools like TweetDeck, Croncycle, or Tweetbe.at to create streams of information and monitor areas of interest, as well as Curator to filter through content and look at the key issues people are talking about within certain time frames.
2. Hone your editorial strategy
After you understand how people in your field are using the platform, you need to decide on how you will use it to suit your goals.
Are you looking to share your content? Source news stories? Find leads? A mix of everything? Different news organisations are bound to have different strategies depending on their audience and mission, so find yours and learn from others.
There are many articles online that share the lessons that news organisations have learnt from their experiences on the platform, such as this one sharing how the FT gained 1 million followers.
3. Make your profile easy to find, but not too easy
Your Twitter bio is the quick and easy way for people to know who you are, where you work and a bit about you as a person. It's more important than you think – unless you're Beyonce, you'll need to give a succinct and eye-catching description of yourself.
Unfortunately, successful social networks are goldmines to hackers, and you need to be wary of security breaches that could affect your personal data. Check out this helpful advice from Daniel Cuthbert, chief operating officer at information security firm Sensepost.
4. Use the tools available for maximum engagement
You don't require a big marketing team to make your content stand out. There are a range of free and paid-for apps that will allow you to engage with your followers in different ways.
For sharing audio files, Chhirp is an easy-to-use tool that lets you record short audio clips and tweet them within a matter of seconds, whereas apps such as Clammr are useful for sharing longer snippets of audio from around the web – handy for highlighting extracts of a podcast or audio file with your followers.
When posting short video clips, make sure you are adding subtitles to get the most out of Twitter's autoplay function, helping your content to engage with followers even without sound.
Images are of course an easy way to grab people's attention. Try TwitShot for attaching Twitter images from links.
Of course, you can use all the latest apps, tools and software you like, but without short, snappy tweets that are about great content, your tweets will be of no value and will not be shared as much.
Check out this advice from BBC's Mark Frankel who shares his top tips for getting your links seen and shared.
5. Source stories the ethical way
One of the benefits of Twitter is the direct contact journalists can have with the public, but when news breaks, it is important to ensure that victims and witnesses are treated with respect and courtesy – however tempting it may be to directly ask for a statement over the platform.
Alison Gow, digital innovations editor, Trinity Mirror Regionals, says that although publicly requesting content is a legitimate part of the journalist’s job it, "being first isn’t a great thing when all you’ve achieved is a mentions column of abuse, and retweets with added angry comments. It damages you, the brand you work for, and the wider journalism community."
Check out this advice from Vivian Schiller, head of news for Twitter North America, in which she details how journalists can source stories before they break, reducing the need for journalists to swamp users of the platform for information.
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