Twitter offers its best practices for journalists – four tips
Earlier this week we were reading about how a growing number of journalists “can’t work without social media” and read Twitter as the most important of those journalistic tools.
Today Twitter has put out its basic four tips for journalists using Twitter, which is a useful addition and reminder to the many social media guides and tips that have been published including some here, which have proved some of the most popular posts on The Wall.
It has created its set of best practices for journalists and newsrooms to help increase follower growth and boost engagement, based on extensive research by its platform and analytics teams.
Much of this you might know, but reading through you might also find yourself think about how and what you are tweeting and prompt some change.
The Twitter team analysed thousands of Tweets from more than 150 news brands and individual reporters around the world, determining four specific areas of focus: tweet your beat, use hashtags for context, @ cite your sources, and share what you’re reading.
1. Tweet your beat – Tweet about what you know
It makes perfect sense. Build your network and extend your contacts in the areas that as a journalist you write about and do it regularly to pick up new followers and grow your network.
According to Twitter its research shows that journalists who post a concentrated number of Tweets in a short time span, follower growth is 50% more than average.
The growth of live blogging and social media coverage of breaking news events does the same boosting both follower numbers and interaction.
It cites the example of last year’s US tornado where @TuscaloosaNews tweeted minute-by-minute updates, including pointers to emergency resources. The effort helped the newsroom win the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News.
Per @tuscaloosacity, Mayor Walt Maddox has received confirmation of 32 deaths and 400 injuries in the wake of yesterday’s tornado.
— tuscaloosanews (@tuscaloosanews) April 28, 2011
Twitter gives another good example of here how how when crime reporter Sara Ganim (@SGanim) from the central Pennsylvania Patriot-News tweeted the Jerry Sandusky trial, she saw a 2,000 follower spike. That shows how reporters on Twitter who continue to live-tweet news relevant to their beat often see a steady stream of new followers.
2. Use hashtags for context – but don’t go hashtag crazy
Twitter says that Tweets with hashtags can increase engagement almost 100% for individuals and 50% for brands.
It talks about how journalists and news publishers can use hashtags to organise conversations, gather feedback, and to identify and engage with Twitter users discussing a particular topic.
One example is Fox News (@FoxNews) and how it used hashtags to identify the subject of its Tweets and to participate in the Twitter conversation about that person, place, thing or event.
Another it gives is of @CBSChicago and how it uses hashtags to group Tweets into a conversation that makes it easy to follow or engage with.
For example, the #DrewPeterson hashtag was included in the Tweet below to identify news related to a local trial. When you include hashtags in Tweets, your Tweets become more visible, and over time you gather more Twitter followers.
We have also seen how the hashtag has become the new political slogan and shaped political debate:
“A dominant hashtag on a particular topic can become impossible for even the establishment being railed against not to embrace.
#telldaveeverything, a hashtag dripping in sarcasm, suggested people should share their greatest secrets with the prime minister, when the government set out plans to broaden online surveillance.
The Home Office published a response using the #telldaveeverything hashtag, the BBC reported.
That suggests the power and the allure of the hashtag to focus an issue, but don’t go overboard.
But don’t start making every other word a hashtag and light it up like a Christmas tree, which is what I’ve seen many times. Use hashtags sparingly and normally only one is needed per tweet.
3. @Cite your sources – Twitter is about sharing
If you are mentioning another user of a brand on Twitter then mention their Twitter name or handle. This can drive engagement. Twitter says that brands that tweet 20% fewer URLs and 100% more @mentions grow followers 17% more than average.
“What that tells us is to mix up your Tweets so your feed isn’t just links to your stories. Post tweets that include URLs, but also tweets with @mentions, and tweets with no links at all,” Twitter says.
For instance Inside Breaking News (@breaking) frequently includes the Twitter handle of the source of the links, photos or videos in its Tweets. A good example of how including the Twitter handle of journalistic sources can increase follower growth and engagement:
Moscow police arrest 10 environmental activists, 4 dressed in polar bear costumes, at Gazprom’s Moscow office – @ap photoblog.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/09/… — Inside Breaking News (@breaking) September 5, 2012
4. Share what you’re reading - share the link love
Twitter says that news accounts can receive up to 100% more active engagement on a high-performing Tweet when a URL is included. Its advice here to boost engagement is to mix it up a bit:
“When individuals share URLs to non-company sources, they experience a bump in follows. Among those who share links to content not generated in their newsrooms are The New York Times’ Brian Stelter (@brianstelter), MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow (@maddow), and The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal (@alexismadrigal).
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) August 31, 2012
If you have Memorial Day off on Monday, read this before you leave for the weekend: is.gd/JvcJpW
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) May 25, 2012
It goes without saying but don’t just share your own content share great content you come across.
That makes you Twitter account more interesting and can grow your network significantly.
Twitter says that individuals with above expected follower growth send 200% more retweets compared to individuals with below expected follower growth.
It gives the example of The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) who has a high rate of Twitter engagement because she shares interesting content she has come across (of course working for the Post also helps).