Ten Top Tips for Tweeting Journalists

I’ve had Twitter for six years and thought I knew all about it; how to retweet, how to favourite, how to hashtag, and how to reply to other accounts tweets. I followed my friends, celebrities I liked, and lots of news outlets. What I didn’t have experience in was self-promotion on Twitter and using Twitter as a platform to showcase my work, and not my thoughts on the newest Lady Gaga song.

Image from Wikipedia

It can be challenging to make the most out of your 140 character limit on microblogging site Twitter, and to fit what you want to say into 140 characters. (That sentence itself was already 154). From my own participation in the social media engagement element of this assignment, I have been able to put together a list of some of the things I have learnt and experimented with along the way. I would encourage journalists and those who wish to run their Twitter like a business to try to use the simple guidelines below.

1. Mention people

By using the reply button on Twitter the @ symbol will come up followed by the persons Twitter handle that you are replying to, it is a good way to open up conversation, you can tag other people to comment on any issues you are tweeting about too to increase attention to your subject. Although you have to remember that you have a 140 character limit!

Mentioning people is a good way to get noticed by large companies too or to affiliate yourself with larger organisations that you may be writing for. I tagged @CampAmerica69 in my Steller story which they then retweeted. This meant that by tweet was potentially seen by 29,000 rather than my 300 followers.

2. Add images

A crazy egg blog post said a tweet is 35% more likely to get retweeted with an image attached. Followed by a tweet with a video URL, this was 28% more likely to be retweeted. (Remember we want retweets! Retweets = higher circulation which means more views, notice, and followers, and discussion!)

3. Live tweet

Live tweeting is a good practise to be in, I had some previous experience when I live tweeted the SUBU election hustings and results night for @nervenews. It is a good way to appeal to a niche target audience who may not have been able to attend the events.

In regard to the more recent live tweeting I completed of the series two premiere of the ITV show The Cruise: Sailing the Mediterranean. I found live tweeting interesting as you have to pay attention to everything happening and select the most exciting information for followers to read and catch up on. It certainly keeps you on your toes and improves your selection skills.

4. Hashtag

Hashtags categorise tweets by keyword, by starting a word with the hashtag symbol [#] other users searching for tweets relating to a specific event or word can search the hashtag and find results easily.

On the Twitter homepage you can see the trending and most talked about hashtags in location specific areas. This is good for a journalist to know as they can see topics that people are interested in and talking about and possibly write a story on it.

I would suggest not overloading your tweets with hashtags and just selecting a few, whether it is a brand you are talking about or trending topics. Sometimes it is good to have an original hashtag when live tweeting so people following you can search your hashtag and then they will be able to see your live stream all in one place. This is something I successfully did when I live tweeted The Cruise on ITV by using #cruiseliveITV in all my tweets which was unused before.

5. Include Links

Twitter is a great tool for self-promotion; if you have a blog or website it is important to include direct links to your work or to what you selling to make things easier for your followers, whilst raising your profile.

It is important to remember that links take up character space so I would not reccomend including two links in the same tweet as followers are likely to only select one. Save the other link for an additional tweet!

EXTRA TIP: Ensure you have a good Twitter biography in your profile with links to your main blog, piece of work you are most proud of, or to a product you are selling. This is your quick introduction of yourself to your followers so have fun it!

6. Be active

This is something I think I could have done better, a daily presence on the site will allow you to engage with your followers and the people you follow, making for better conversations and connections. Always respond to people who reply to your tweets.

EXTRA TIP: If you want your followers you see your reply publically to another account, for example you may be having a political debate or sharing your thoughts on the best way to make a cheese sauce, don’t start with the @ put a full stop (or words) in front so others can see your thoughts too. If you don’t want your conversation to come up on people who follow you newsfeeds simply reply with their Twitter handle first to prevent bombarding their feed.

7. Like and Retweet

This goes hand in hand with active engagement. Liking and retweeting are simple things to do that will show your interest in what others are discussing.

You can retweet your own thoughts on other peoples work or reply to them to let people know what your thoughts are, I think is something I have done nicely by selecting a quote that I particularly enjoyed from a link @sunburntsaver shared.

Additionally, retweets from people you follow will bring new accounts, interesting stories and webpages onto your news feed to your attention. Retweets allow a starting discussion point as well as bringing the conversation directly to you.

8. Make Lists

Twitter lists allow users to view the original content from the people they want in one simple feed, that means no retweets, no adverts, and no sponsored content. Some journalists, or those using the same account for both personal and business use, may want to create lists to separate their friends and family from their professional Twitter contacts.

EXTRA TIP: Stay on top of people you follow by filtering out spam accounts and accounts that have been inactive for years but using a site like manage flitter.

9. Use Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck can be used to monitor; multiple accounts, newsfeeds, hashtags, lists, and direct messages all from one simple interface.

One of my biggest tips for monitoring hashtags is that Tweetdeck is better for niche or more specific topics as otherwise the updates come in so fast you cannot keep up with them, let alone read them. For example the #news search had updates coming in so quickly it was not beneficial for my research, but with the #privacylaws and #journalism one I could monitor the tweets with ease to locate anything worth retweeting or even writing a blog post on.

10. Schedule

If you are a night owl and finish a great piece of writing at 3.30am, don’t tweet it then, it will get lost in newsfeeds by the time people wake up. Use the tweet scheduler on tweet deck to schedule it go out when people are on their commute to work or having breakfast when they are most likely to see your piece.

You can easily find the scheduling when you start a new tweet by clicking on the blue icon in the top left corner and then click ‘schedule tweet’ in the box below.

EXTRA TIP: Use http://www.tweriod.com/ to view when people are most active that follow you so you know the peak time to tweet. Also if you have two audiences, for example England and Australia, you can tweet the same link twice in each countries prime time.


Twitter Wishes

As great as Twitter is there are a few things that I do wish they would consider when they do the next updates to the site.

1.

An option to edit tweets. Facebook does it, blog posts do it. Why can’t Twitter? For example, for one of my first blog posts I created a twitter poll to encourage interaction. I posted the poll, and then I noticed a typo. By the time I had noticed people had already responded so I had to make a decision about whether I wanted to take it down and repost and the run the risk that people wouldn’t get involved second time round. The double word error didn’t affect the meaning of the question so I decided to leave it as I’d rather have had more people answer the poll.

Looking back I think I should have included more hashtags in the poll to get more responses.

2.

Thankfully Twitter is always making updates, before previous upgrades the ‘@insertname’ would take up characters in the tweet in all conversations. Now thanks to upgrades only the first tweet using the persons handle does and not any additional replies. Although, I think all @mentions should not be included in the 140 character limit. However, I do understand that part of micro blogging and Twitter is about the limit restriction and that the site cannot keep making exceptions.

My own personal critique is using a having an account name as long as katielaurenhill (15 characters!) makes a significant in tweets. After reflection on this I changed it to KatieLHill, maybe not a huge difference but 5 additional characters when 140 is your maximum can make all the difference, or even a new word.


Reflection

I believe that the social media engagement tasks have taught me more about Twitter and its wider purposes for self-promotion and as discussion platform, rather than just a social network among friends sharing what I am doing.

I had never used tweetdeck or twitter lists before this exercise and it has made me consider the timings of my tweets, who I am tweeting to, and where I get my information from.

I think I successfully encouraged my followers to have their say on Twitter after reading my blog posts by creating polls to encourage discussion and participation. I found other stories that surronded similar topics to my blog posts and shared them giving my followers a preview of my work to come. Finally, I am pleased that @CampAmerica69 retweeted the link to one of my Steller stories allowing it to be seen by nearly 100 times more people due to the difference in our numbers of followers.

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