Twitter for Reporters


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Basic course for reporters just starting out on Twitter. Includes terminology, content strategy, and a review of several Twitter functions.

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  • So what is Twitter?Twitter is a site that allows users to send out 140-character messages to followers.It’s great for breaking news coverage.It’s another tool to promote our websites and our brands. And it provides another way to reach new readers, particularly younger ones, and build new sources.
  • Why should reporters be using Twitter every day? Because news consumers favor Twitter over other social media platforms – and while Facebook is still the reining champ in terms of number of users, a higher percentage of twitter users are on there looking for news – while Facebook is more about the social interaction and sharing baby photos.Twitter offers news gathering opportunities, which we’ll touch on later.It helps brand your organization, and builds connections with new readers.
  • Here are just a few quick statistics on how Twitter has grown. There are 100 million active daily users, generating about 5,700 tweets per second. The average time a Twitter user spends per month is 170 minutes.
  • Now we’re going to go through some basic Twitter terminology. If you’re just starting out or not very familiar with Twitter, it can appear like people are using a different language. But really, once you immerse yourself, you get familiar with the lingo pretty quickly. This is a good starting point.
  • A tweet – this is a 140-character post on Twitter that is public, searchable, and sent out to other users.
  • You follow Twitter users to see their tweets. You can unfollow is you no longer want to see their tweets.
  • A retweet, or RT, is when you repeat another’s tweet to all the users who are following you.
  • There’s two ways to retweet someone. You can hit that retweet icon, as shown in the last slide. When you do it that way, the tweet is presented to your followers using the avatar of the original tweeter. Or, you can copy-paste the text into your own tweet, and type “RT” in front of the person’s handle. That way, your avatar is still what your followers see.
  • A mention uses the at symbol to reference another twitter user, with their handle. Doing this alerts that user that they’ve been mentioned in your tweet.
  • Hashtags, or the number sign, are used to indicate searchable topics, like your town name or a major event.
  • When something is trending, it means the term is very popular on Twitter, and a lot of users are using it in their tweets.
  • A direct message – or DM – is used when you want to connect with another Twitter user privately.
  • Your feed is a view of the most recent tweets from the people you follow.
  • And a MT or modified tweet, is when you’d like to retweet another user and make a comment on what he or she said, but the user went up to the 140-character limit. So, if you’re going to modify or edit the tweet, you use MT instead of RT to indicate the tweet has been shortened.Any questions about those terms before we move on?
  • OK, so now we’re going to take a look at what the screen looks like when you log on to Twitter, and review the icons in the main navigation.
  • This is a quick view of your profile. It shows how many tweets you’ve sent out, how many users are following you, and how many users you’re following. It also includes a box where you type in your tweets.
  • This “Who to follow” box contained suggestions from Twitter on who you should follow. Generally, it recommends users who follow people you already follow, or people who use the same hashtags as you.
  • And here’s your feed – a listing of the most recent tweets from the users you follow.
  • Now we’re going to go through the top navigation. On the home screen, you have the @ Connect tab.
  • Click on that, and you get this page – a rundown of recent interactions with other users. This includes when people have retweeted you, mentioned you with the @ symbol, and when new users start following you. It’s good to check this page often – at least once a day for regular twitter users.
  • Next we have the hashtag discover tab.
  • Clicking this tab gives you a rundown of popular hashtags that you might find interesting. It’s based on hashtags you’ve used in the past, popular or trending hashtags throughout the Twittersphere, or hashtags that lots of the people you follow are using. This might be helpful if you live in a community that’s very active on Twitter, because you can see what local topics are trending.Once you’ve determined a topic is trending locally, or a hashtag is popular, you can get in on the conversation by using it – incorporating it into your own tweets.
  • This is the “me” tab, a link to your profile page.
  • Clicking on the “me” tab will allow you to see what others see when they click on your twitter page – your avatar image, name, twitter handle, bio, location, and website. It also shows how many tweets you’ve sent out, how many followers you have, how many users you are following, and a list of your most recent tweets.Here is where you can edit your profile by clicking “edit profile.”
  • Also in the top navigation is the Twitter search box.
  • Here, you can search for specific terms, and it will pull up tweets from users who have included those terms in their tweets. Here’s an example of what “veterans day” turns up. As you can see, using this search function will turn up the term when it’s used as a hashtag, like in that first result, but also when it’s just part of the tweet’s normal text, like in that second result.
  • The envelope icon is how you access your mailbox.
  • So here you’ll get a rundown of all the direct messages you’ve been sent.
  • This is the settings tab, this gear-like image.
  • Clicking on the settings gear gives you a menu that includes your lists, help, keyboard shortcuts, recent advertisements. It also allows you to access your Twitter settings and sign out.
  • Lastly, there’s the compose button on the right.
  • This just opens a larger box to compose a new tweet, but you can use the box on the left just as well, without having to make an extra click. It gives you the same functions.Ay questions about the screen before we move on?
  • OK, so now we’re going to go through the components of your Twitter profile, with recommendations for journalists. First, your avator – or the photo you upload to your account that all other users will see. The photo should be a clear, normal-looking headshot. It can be a bit more casual than the headshot that runs in print, like what’s you’d use with a column. But it should still be professional, and just of you.
  • Here’s your profile name. You should use the name you use for your byline – your full name, no nick names.
  • Your handle should incorporate the name of your newspaper in some shortened way, along with your name. So in this example, the reporter chose SunTimesJenn. You can abbreviate your newspaper, and use part of your name. If you have several reporters from the same paper tweeting, their handles should all conform. And if you already have a profile set up, there is a way to chance your handle. If anyone would like more information on that, please contact me afterward and we’ll go over it.
  • Lastly, you’ve got your bio. Make sure you identify yourself as a reporter, as this is your professional account. Include that geographic areas or subject matter you cover. And definitely include a link to your newspaper’s website.
  • Getting into your tone on Twitter. Here are five overall “rules” to follow. First and foremost, have a personality, but make sure you’re being appropriate – and we’ll have some examples of that in a bit. Remember that sarcasm doesn’t always translate. It’s crucial that you are objective, even when being humorous. You’re still a reporter on Twitter, and you’re tweeting from a professional account. Avoid negativity if possible – clearly you’re reporting on serious and often negative things, and it’s not like you could or should sugarcoat a murder-suicide. But don’t be overly negative or critical if you don’t need to – for example, if you’re a sports reporter, don’t spend a lot of time ragging on other teams or coaching decisions. And finally, try to be conversational. You don’t want to come off as overly formal or “official” sounding.
  • Here are a few examples of appropriate humor. (pause) It’s light-hearted, and doesn’t make fun of anyone or anything. I don’t mean to imply that you have to try to be funny on Twitter. If you’re not funny – don’t make lame attempts. Again, just be conversational, and stick to tweeting about stuff you’re covering, if that’s what makes you comfortable.
  • Few more examples.
  • Once you’ve established an account and have started tweeting, or maybe you have already, you’ll want to build your followers. We get asked a lot what the best strategy to do this for journalists, and honestly, there’s no magic bullet. But the two most important things are to tweet often and regularly, and to follow as many people as you possibly can. The more people you follow, the more will follow you. So make sure you’re doing your best to find every local person using Twitter, and give them a follow. Some other tips are to promote your handle in print, on your website and especially on Facebook. Include it on your email signature, and on business cards, if you still use those. And make sure you’re interacting with other Twitter users. Use a hashtag or mention in every single tweet.
  • OK, now we’re going to go over some ethics guidelines, includingVerifying sourcesBeing transparentYour own personal twitter accountHalting the rumor millAnd offensive tweets and followers
  • Verifying sources. These quotes comes from the GateHouse employee ethics handbook.“Verify information separately; interview sources independently of the social networks.” In other words, don’t just grab quotes from Twitter and attribut them to whoever the person says she is online. Direct message the user and ask for a phone number or email. (We’ll go over how to do that in a bit here.) You can also use an at mention to get the person’s attention, and request an interview. Once you’ve done that, actually speak to the person. You need to be confident they are who they say they are before you quote them. When in doubt, talk to your supervisor.
  • Just a quick side note here on using the @ mention to contact someone. If you want a semi-private conversation with the user, start your tweet with the @ mention. When you do that, only users who follow BOTH you and the person you are trying to contact can see your tweet.If you want to start a tweet with an @ mention, and you want it to be fully public, put a period before the @ symbol.
  • Being transparent. “Tell contacts what you are working on, why, and how you plan to use the information they supply. Explain all that information is on-the-record and for attribution.”Again, don’t just grab quotes. When you contact people, let them know they will be quoted. It’s weird, but some people just assume that because you’re contacting them based off something they said on Twitter, they assume it’s anonymous or off the record.
  • Your personal Twitter account. If you have an account separate from the newspaper’s account just remember that “You are always a journalist; what you do on your social networking site can and does reflect on you personally and professionally and on the company.”My rule is to give it the publisher-grandma test. Think to yourself, if my publisher and my grandma sees this, am I going to be OK with that? And just know that if you tweet it, someone can find it – even if you delete it. Also, be mindful of who you follow, and who follows you, as follow lists are public. It’s not like Facebook where there are lots of privacy settings – there are few privacy settings in Twitter. The purpose of it is to spread information, publicly.
  • Halting the rumor mill. As a journalist on social media, it’s your responsibility to use the same filters you would for print, online. So don’t publish unverified information on your website, or in print. Using something like “according to twitter sources” doesn’t cut it. If there’s unverified information floating around out there – like that there’s been a shooting in your town or something – acknowledge the information, but tell your readers that it hasn’t been confirmed and that you’re working to verify it. And if you see information out there that you know is wrong, say something. Tell your followers it isn’t accurate.
  • Offensive tweets. OK. If you accidently tweet something offensive, remove it immediately and alert your supervisor. So what we mean by “accidentally offensive.” I have an example that I won’t get all the way into because it’s like, really offensive. But basically, a reporter at a major sports media organization tweeted something very, very racist – not knowing the term he used was a slur. He had no idea. But it’s twitter, so as soon as it was out there, it was retweeted like wildfire. So, if you post something, and then suddenly realize you made a mistake, or that it could be construed as of-color, even if that’s not how you meant it – or whatever the situation – delete it and call your supervisor.Now, deleting the tweet doesn’t mean it never happened. Again, screen shots and retweets can haunt you. So prepare a response. Explain what happened. And if people retweeted you, contacted them and give them the response. Depending on the severity of your tweet, be prepared to publish that response in print and online, and tweet out your apology.
  • Just a side note that if you’re an editor on that call and have reporters tweeting, make sure you train them as best you can. Ask to review teir tweets for the first couple of weeks before they send them out. Provide examples of good people to follow on Twitter. And monitor their accounts like crazy those first few weeks, to make sure everything is on the level.
  • Last thing on ethics – offensive followers. These are people you want to block. Basically, your account is a representation of the entire company, and who you follow is public information. So most politicians and political groups are fine – just make sure you follow both sides to remain balanced. Extreme political, social or religious groups are not OK – block those folks. Just use your best judgment, and be prepared to explain why you followed or blocked someone, if asked.Any questions on ethics before we move onto weekend posting?
  • Since a lot of Twitter activity happens on the weekend, and many of our reporters don’t work during the weekends, we recommend using Twuffer to schedule tweets in advance. I know a lot of folks out there use HootSuite, which is a social media dashboard that also allows you to compose scheduled posts – and if you’re already using HootSuite and you love it – great. Stick to that.What I love about Twuffer is, there’s no additional logon. You don’t have to set up an account. You login with your twitter credentials, and start posting right away.
  • Once you’ve logged in with your twitter credentials, this is the screen you see. You simply type in your tweet…
  • Then give it a date and time to post, and hit “Schedule tweet.”
  • You can also look at tweets you already have scheduled, and a list of past tweets you’ve sent using Twuffer. Any questions about Twuffer?
  • And here are some ideas for content to tweet while you are not working – which obviously won’t be as timely as the stuff you live tweet. • In case you missed it: A hedline from one of your more significant stories from that week, with a link to the story.• Looking ahead: If you have coverage plans you know of, or there’s a cool local event happening that weekend, let your followers know.• Entertainment or Lifestyles content – if your website has this content, even if you’re not the one producing it – pick a story and provide a link. This type of content plays particularly well on weekends.• Link to your weather page – say something like, “Will the kids get a chance to go sledding this weekend or not? Check out our weather page.”• Blog posts – if your website hosts local bloggers, it’s great to use twitter to promote them. Link to a recent post.• Callouts for future stories – if you’re looking for sources, use a pre-scheduled weekend post to find people to quote.• And lastly, a Facebook promotion. Let your followers know that you or your newspaper is also on Facebook.
  • OK, so here’s just a quick rundown of 5 Twitter tips.
  • Now we’re going to get into two built-in Twitter tools you may find useful – lists and advanced search.First, you can create a list of twitter followers based on certain qualifications. So basically, these lists allow you to curate groups of Twitter users, so you can scan their tweets quickly.For example, you can create a list of all the local politicians in your community. Or a list of everyone that tweets about school district issues. Or mainstream, national news outfits.
  • So, first step is to go to your lists page, by clicking the gear icon in the top navigation and selecting “Lists.”
  • I did want to draw your attention to a feature that’s kinda cool but you might not use all that often. Twitter also allows you to filter searches by attitudes – people tweeting positive things, negative things – it filters by tone.
  • Enter the list name, like “Local public officials” and a short description. You then need to chose whether other twitter users can see the list you made, or if you want to make it private. In general, we’d recommend you keep your lists private. Then select save.
  • Then, to add or remove people from your lists, click on a users profile, and then click on the profile drop down menu – it’s the icon there with the head and shoulders silhouette. Once there, you can select “Add or remove from lists” and a box will appear prompting you to choose an existing list, or create a new one.
  • On to using Twitter’s advanced search function, to find potential sources and stories. First, go to this address, search dot twitter dot com, and click on “advanced search”
  • Once you’ve clicked on “advanced search” you’re brought to this screen. This is a very specific, robust means of combing through millions of tweets. You can fill in multiple fields here – for example, you could use “this exact phrase” and type in “Toronto mayor” and type “crack” in “these hashtags”, then type “alcohol” in “none of these words” - if you just want to see the latest about Rob Ford’s drug problems, but not his alcoholism.
  • If you’re looking for tweets from a group of specific users, you can input their handles in the “from” “to” and “mentioning” these accounts. You can also search for tweets by location – in the “Places” field, you can put in a city, like “Chicago” or you can do a radius, by typing “Near Chicago within 15 miles.”
  • So here’s our search for the best known crack-smoking mayor, specifically looking for tweets in or within 15 miles of Chicago. This is a good tool to use if you want to find local people commenting on a national or state story.
  • And here are the fun results you get from our search.
  • I did want to draw your attention to a feature that’s kinda cool but you might not use all that often. Twitter also allows you to filter searches by attitudes – people tweeting positive things, negative things – it filters by tone.
  • Probably the best way to get good at tweeting is to learn from the best. Here are eight GateHouse journalists we’d recommend following – it’s a mix of news and sports, editors and reporters. I’ll be emailing a list of these handles out to everyone on the call, so you don’t need to write them down.Anyway, these people have good tone, they tweet a variety of content, and they’re avid tweeters.
  • Are there any questions?
  • Twitter for Reporters

    1. 1. Twitter for Reporters Call (877) 411-9748 Access code: 630-956-8834
    2. 2. Agenda › › › › › › › › › › What is Twitter? Why reporters should tweet Basic terminology, screen overview Your professional identity Tone, content strategy Building a following Ethics overview Time-saving tips and tools Using search, lists Few to follow, questions
    3. 3. What is Twitter? › 140-character messages, sent out to followers › Great for following and reporting breaking news › Another tool to promote our websites › Provides another way to reach new readers, sources
    4. 4. Why use Twitter? › News consumers favor Twitter over other social media platforms* › Offers news gathering opportunities › Helps to brand news organization › Builds connections with new readers *Source: Pew Research Center
    5. 5. Why use Twitter? › 100 million active daily users › 5,700 tweets every second › 170 minutes: average time spent per month Source: mediabistro
    6. 6. Basic terminology › › › › › › › › › Tweet Follow, unfollow Retweet (RT) Hashtag Mention Trending Direct message (DM) Feed Modified tweet (MT)
    7. 7. Terminology › Tweet A 140-character post on Twitter
    8. 8. Terminology › Follow, unfollow You follow Twitter users to see their tweets; unfollow to remove
    9. 9. Terminology › Retweet (RT) Repeating another’s tweet to all your followers
    10. 10. Terminology
    11. 11. Terminology › Mention (@) Used to mention (or reference) another Twitter user; alerts that user
    12. 12. Terminology › # Hashtags Are used to indicate searchable topics like town names or big events
    13. 13. Terminology › Trending Used to indicate a certain term is popular, being tweeted often
    14. 14. Terminology › Direct message (DM) Use when you want Twitter users to contact you privately
    15. 15. Terminology › Feed View of most recent tweets from the people you follow
    16. 16. Terminology › Modified tweet (MT) When you’d like to retweet, but are over the 140-character limit
    17. 17. Screen overview › › › › › › › @ Connect # Discover Me (your profile) Search box Mailbox Settings Compose
    18. 18. Screen overview
    19. 19. Screen overview
    20. 20. Screen overview
    21. 21. Screen overview
    22. 22. Screen overview
    23. 23. Screen overview
    24. 24. Screen overview
    25. 25. Screen overview
    26. 26. Screen overview
    27. 27. Screen overview
    28. 28. Screen overview
    29. 29. Screen overview
    30. 30. Screen overview
    31. 31. Screen overview
    32. 32. Screen overview
    33. 33. Screen overview
    34. 34. Screen overview
    35. 35. Your identity › Avatar Photo should be a clear, normal headshot
    36. 36. Your identity › Profile name Use your byline – your full name
    37. 37. Your identity › Handle Should incorporate the name of your newspaper
    38. 38. Your identity › Bio Identify yourself as a reporter, include what you cover and link to your website
    39. 39. Tone & content › Personality Great, when › › › › appropriate Sarcasm Doesn’t always translate Objectivity Important, even when using humor Negativity Avoid if possible Conversation Don’t be overly formal, “official”
    40. 40. Tone & content
    41. 41. Tone & content
    42. 42. Gaining followers Tweet often, regularly Follow, follow, follow  Promote handle in print, website, Facebook  Include in email, business cards  Interact – use @ and #
    43. 43. Ethics roundup › › › › › › Verifying sources Being transparent Your personal account Halting rumors Offensive tweets Offensive followers
    44. 44. Ethics roundup › Verifying sources “Verify information separately; interview sources independently of the social networks.”  Direct message the user, ask for phone number  Use @ to contact and request an interview  Speak to the person, get more information  Talk to your supervisor
    45. 45. ((side note)) › @ mention public vs semi private @SarahShipley I’m a reporter with The Times and would like to inverview you. Can you call (555) 5555555? .@SarahShipley has some great photos of the train wreck.
    46. 46. Ethics roundup › Being transparent “Tell contacts what you are working on, why, and how you plan to use the information they supply. Explain all that information is on-the-record and for attribution.”  Don’t just grab quotes  Be open and honest  Tell sources they will be quoted
    47. 47. Ethics roundup › Your personal account “You are always a journalist; what you do on your social networking site can and does reflect on you personally and professionally and on the company.”  Give it the publisher/grandma test  If you tweet it, someone can find it  Be mindful of who you follow, and who follows you
    48. 48. Ethics roundup › Halting rumors Do not publish unverified information you saw on Twitter on your newspaper’s website or in print.  “According to Twitter sources” doesn’t cut it  Inform followers you are working to verify  If you see misinformation, call it out
    49. 49. Ethics roundup › Offensive tweets If you accidentally tweet something offensive, remove it immediately and tell your supervisor.  Deleting the tweet doesn’t mean you pretend it never happened.  Prepare a response. Screen shots will bite you.  People retweeted? Contact those people, deliver prepared response.  Publish that response in print and online; link to it on Twitter.
    50. 50. Ethics roundup › Offensive tweets (for editors) If you are the editor and have reporters tweeting for the first time – train, train, train.  Ask to review tweets before the reporter posts  Provide examples – have the reporter follow other GateHouse reporters  Monitor like a hawk
    51. 51. Ethics roundup › Offensive followers Block offensive or controversial followers. Your account is a representation of the entire company.  Most politicians and political groups are fine  Follow both sides or viewpoints  Extreme political, social or religious groups are not  Use your best judgment  Be prepared to explain your decisions
    52. 52. Off duty posting › How can I tweet on days I’m not working? Use, which allows a Twitter user to compose tweets in advance, and schedule the posts
    53. 53. Off duty posting
    54. 54. Off duty posting
    55. 55. Off duty posting
    56. 56. Off duty posting › › › › › › › › In case you missed it Looking ahead Entertainment content Lifestyles content Link to online weather page Blog posts Callouts for future stories Facebook promotion
    57. 57. Five Twitter tips › Try not to use all 140 characters WHY People might want to retweet you, and add their own comment. HOW Don’t be an AP Style slave. Use reasonable abbreviations. Use twitter terminology. EXAMPLE A 4-car crash on Hwy 6 is causing major delays in #Peoria. Avoid if possible Its snowin like crazy. Neone have pics to share?
    58. 58. Five Twitter tips › Use hashtags and retweet often WHY Using hashtags and retweeting others will help Twitter users find you and follow you. HOW Search for hashtags in your community, or create your own as a newsroom. EXAMPLES
    59. 59. Five Twitter tips › Use a URL shortner WHY You want to maximize your ability to sell your content, and you only have 140 characters. HOW Use a web tool like bitly, or HootSuite’s built-in shortener. EXAMPLE
    60. 60. Five Twitter tips › Direct message to find sources for stories WHY You need to verify someone’s identity and get their permission to quote them. HOW If they are following you, use Twitter’s direct messager. If not, use an @ mention, and pass along your contact information. EXAMPLE
    61. 61. Five Twitter tips › Tweet at popular times WHY Maximize your Twitter efforts by posting at popular tweeting times. HOW Use Twuffer or a social media deck to schedule your posts. EXAMPLE Afternoon tweets, around 5 p.m., get the most retweets. Lunchtime tweets, around noon, also get retweeted more often.
    62. 62. Using lists › Use lists to curate groups of Twitter users › Allows you to scan select accounts quickly
    63. 63. Using lists  Go to your lists page
    64. 64. Using lists Click “Create list”
    65. 65. Using lists  Enter list name, description; select private/public  Save list
    66. 66. Using lists
    67. 67. Using search › Use Twitter’s advanced search tool to find potential stories and sources
    68. 68. Using search
    69. 69. Using search
    70. 70. Using search
    71. 71. Using search
    72. 72. Using search
    73. 73. A few to follow @Bpetrishen_MWDN Brad Petrishen @JournoBuedel Matt Buedel @RichardLodge_MW Richard Lodge @lauranight Laura Nightengale @DanCagen Dan Cagen @JayDRedfern Jay Redfern @SpitzJ_MW Julia Spitz @dennisedit Dennis Anderson
    74. 74. Questions? @cox4ghm Carlene Cox