Twitter Tips — How Twitter Can Help Journalists

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

I never thought I’d be a Twitterer who twittered tweets. That’s what I told myself when I first started researching Twitter and its benefit for journalists. Now, I use Twitter on a daily basis, not so much to tell people what I’m doing but more so to keep up with what people are talking about and to find interesting links to news articles and Web sites.

I started keeping track of news organizations that have Twitter pages and interviewed journalists to hear how they use them. Based on what I learned, I wrote two articles about Twitter and its use in the newsroom: “Newsies Twittering on Twitter” and “Experimenting with Twitter: How Newsrooms Are Using It to Reach More Users.” Lately, I’ve been teaching my colleagues at The Poynter Institute how to use Twitter. I’ve put together a Twitter tip sheet, which I’ve copied and pasted below. Feel free to add any feedback you might have.

How have you found Twitter to be helpful, if at all?

TWITTER
“I never thought I’d be a Twitterer who twittered tweets…”

Setting up a Twitter account:
1.) Go to http://www.twitter.com
2.) Create a username, password and profile

Twitter asks:
“What are you doing?” You have 140 characters to respond to this question. Your “followers” (Twitter friends) can read your updates.

What’s the point?
Twitter is a form of microblogging. Many news organizations are using this social networking site to post breaking news updates. Some news organizations, such as The New York Times, have RSS feeds fed to their Twitter page. Others only post Twitter updates when major events take place.

You can also use Twitter to find story ideas, pose questions when looking for sources for a story and to see what’s irking people/what people are talking about on a given day. To do that: You can’t just go and update your station’s twitter account. Or your station’s Web site. You need to get inside these networks and become a part of communities. If you’re just sending information, you’re essentially a broadcaster. You need to receive and take part in the back-and-forth.

What do I put in a “Tweet” (Twitter update)?
Some people write random thoughts, pose questions, post links to interesting articles, comment on public events as they’re taking place. This happens, for instance, during presidential debates, major sporting events, etc. The more people/news organizations you follow on Twitter, the easier it will be to see how the site works.

Who’s on Twitter?
To find out who is a “Twitterer” (Twitter user) you can search for people in the Twitter search box, or you can type in the following URLs: (The name after the “.com/” is the Twitterer’s username.)

• Poynter: http://twitter.com/Poynter
• The New York Times: http://twitter.com/nytimes
• The Portland Oregonian: http://twitter.com/oregonian
• The Orlando Sentinel: http://twitter.com/orlandosentinel
• Atlanta Journal Constitution: http://twitter.com/ajc
• National Public Radio: http://twitter.com/nprnews
• CNN: http://twitter.com/cnn
• ESPN – http://twitter.com/espn
• C/net News: http://twitter.com/CNETNews
• Barack Obama: http://twitter.com/BarackObama
• Newsdesigner: http://twitter.com/newsdesigner
• Center for Innovation in College Media: http://twitter.com/CICM
• Joe Grimm (job updates): http://twitter.com/newsrecruiter
• Los Angeles Fire Department: http://twitter.com/LAFD
http://twitter.com/steveouting
• Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine blogger, journalism professor at CUNY: http://twitter.com/jeffjarvis
• Andrew Devigal, New York Times multimedia editor: http://twitter.com/drewvigal
• Julie Mason, White House correspondent, Houston Chronicle: http://twitter.com/juliemason
• Amy Gahran, E-Media Tidbits editor: http://twitter.com/agahran
• Steve Outing, E-Media Tidbits contributor: http://twitter.com/steveouting

Here is a more detailed list of news organizations/journalists on Twitter.

**You can also visit http://www.terraminds.com and search for keywords such as “Obama,” “Race and ethnicity,” “Superbowl,” etc., and see a listing of Tweets from Twitterers who have used these keywords in their posts. (Good for reporting purposes when looking for sources.)

Privacy:
Avoid using your full name as your Twitter username. “Tweets” (Twitter posts) can turn up in Google searches.

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