by Amani Channel
You’ve heard all about Twitter, but still don’t really get it. I’m begining to wonder how many Twitter users get it. I’ve gotten Twitter spam, see accounts where people just blurt out marketing messages with no two-way engagement, and automated accounts with no signs of human life.
To start off with, Twitter is a micro blog. It’s similar to a blog in that you can update information frequenlty. I like to liken the community to a chat room, however you select the conversations, and users that you receive messages from. The limit to these messages or “tweets” is 140 characters.
Twitter is a valuable tool for news because it allows you to easily monitor what other news organizations are covering 24/7 (as long as they are actively on Twitter), engage in conversations with the community, identify news sources, brand your content and drive traffic.
Twitter can be effective when you “tweet” regularly, have two-way conversations with your followers, re-tweet (quote) tweets from other users who are sharing interesting content, and use hash-tags to aggregate news.
In developing your Twitter strategy try to share information that adds value to the community and can establish you as the source of quality information. Below are some general communications methods:
Engage in two-way conversations: Use @username to send a publicly visible tweet to another user. For example: “@charlesedwards1 What are you working on today?” All of your followers will see that you are asking Charles a question.
Direct Messages: Twitter allows you to send private tweets similar to e-mail. This is called a Direct Message or DM. DMs are limited to 140 characters
Re-tweet: A re-tweet (RT) is the highest compliment on Twitter; it means that someone finds so much value in your tweet that they want to share it with their followers. For example: RT @charlesedwards1 (followed by the original tweet). You should always give RT credit when sharing a tweet that originated from another community member. Tip: Make sure your tweet doesn’t take the entire 140 characters. It makes it harder to people to re-tweet you.
Hashtags: Hashtags are used to aggregate tweets from the community. Twitter users usually assign a hashtag which becomes adopted and used by the greater community. During the Atlanta Mayoral election, users used #atlmayor for Tweets related to the Mayor’s race. During the runoff #atlpolitics was used. By following a hashtag, a user can follow all tweets related to a certain topic. Note: Due to the limits in character length, a hashtag should be no longer than ten characters.
Hashtags seem to work best during big news events. When I was working for HDNews and covered the 2008 Hurricane season, #Ike, and #Gustav were the hashtags used to share information during the storms. I was able to have direct conversations with people on the ground, learn about areas that were being threatened, and share what I was seeing from the field.
Getting started: Once you establish your Twitter account, start by looking for other news organizations that are on Twitter (that is a great way to monitor what other stations are covering. I even got some freelance work from the AP by monitoring Twitter). You follow them by clicking “Follow.” You should also look for elected officials, public figures and other newsmakers.
The beauty with Twitter is that anyone can be a newsmaker, a fan, or “citizen journalist.” Try to follow civic minded individuals. If you like someone’s tweets follow them. They will usually reciprocate and follow you back. You can start building a rapport by sending a tweet thanking the follower for their interest.
News organizations should carefully consider the Twitter policy regarding re-tweeting information from other news sources. A news organization wants to establish its credibility as being the source of breaking news, and important information. Re-tweeting news from other credible sources could undermine these efforts.
If you have any other thoughts, ideas or questions, please leave a comment.