There is no doubt that Twitter is everywhere, and despite criticisms that the social media site is overhyped, it has played a meaningful role in much more than just sharing what users had for dinner. Twitter is quickly becoming the go-to spot for all kinds of news, and over the past few years has broken major stories and provided insights into conflicts around the world. As a result, whether you love it or begrudge it, there’s no avoiding Twitter when it comes to modern journalism. It’s necessary for any journalism student to learn how to use the site and to make the most of the opportunities it affords. Whether that means employing it to network, find jobs, get inspired, or just to read the latest news is entirely up to you, but we offer some tips here that can help you to do all of the above and more.
These fundamentals can play a big role in a student’s success with using Twitter, so make sure to pay close attention.
- Treat Twitter seriously. Twitter is a public forum and everything you tweet is out there for anyone to see. As a result, it’s essential that you take it seriously, maintain a professional attitude, and never tweet anything that could potentially cost you your job or endanger your education.
- Organize your Twitter. If you’re following a large number of feeds on Twitter, it can be hard to keep up with everything and some things you care about might get lost amid a sea of tweets. Organize those you’re following into lists, which makes it simple to check up on friends, journalists, news sites, or whatever else you’re interested in at the moment.
- Remember that journalism ethics apply on Twitter, too. Because Twitter is a social media tool, many have a tendency to treat it differently than other forms of media. In reality, the same rules that apply for any other form of traditional media should apply on Twitter as well, so don’t tweet things without verification or make assumptions.
- Develop your bio. If you’re using Twitter to promote you and your work, you don’t want to be anonymous. In fact, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to use Twitter to learn more about you. Part of that can and should be developing a bio that tells about your interests and qualifications.
- Keep your handle simple. Ideally, your Twitter handle should be your name, or some variation on it, or something that’s very easy to remember. Anything else will make it hard for people to find you and could make you look unprofessional.
- Know the social networking policy of your school and employer. Fair or unfair as they might be, most colleges and businesses have social media policies. Failure to follow them could get you in hot water, so before you ever send your first tweet, read up to make sure you’re in line with what’s accepted.
- Be judicious with your social media time. While you want to develop your Twitter profile, you also don’t want it to take over your life. Be smart about how you spend time on social media, focusing primarily on elements of it that mean the most to you.
- Study Twitter’s role in journalism. Twitter has played a major role in breaking big stories and relaying news around the world. Learn more about these cases to help understand why Twitter is so crucial to modern media.
- Separate your personal and professional identities. When setting up a Twitter account, it’s usually a good idea to set up two accounts: one to use personally and one to use professionally. That way, you can enjoy joking around with your friends without worrying that it will harm your professional reputation.
- Read a primer on using Twitter. If you’re not familiar with using Twitter, especially in a journalistic way, consider reading a primer, like this one written by Steve Buttry, to get you started.
These tips will help you to build better tweets and to get more out of your Twitter experience.
- Tweet regularly. If you really want to make the most of Twitter, you’ll need to develop a regular schedule of tweeting so that your audience will always have something to read.
- Don’t over-tweet. When it comes to Twitter, there really can be too much of a good thing. While your followers will appreciate regular tweets, tweeting too much could make you a nuisance.
- Add links to your tweets. To get more out of your tweets, try to ensure that a fair amount contain links to other sites. It’s interesting for readers and can help to promote other projects, people, or things you find compelling.
- Lead with the good stuff. Don’t make your followers wait for the important part of a tweet. Lead with the most interesting parts to garner the most attention.
- Don’t make fun of people. It’s in very poor form to mock others online and could come back to bite you.
- Use proper grammar and spelling. It should go without saying that proper grammar and spelling are important, but in the casual world of social media sometimes it can be easy to forget.
- Share what you’re reading and watching. One way to build interest in what you’re tweeting is to share the books you’re reading, articles you find interesting, or programs that you love.
- Keep tweets short so they’re sharable. If possible, try to keep your tweets under 140 characters so that there’s room for others to share and comment.
- Archive your tweets. Archiving your tweets can be a great way to keep a record of what you’ve done on Twitter, helping you store great links, ideas, and conversations for later.
- Don’t tweet everything. Not everything belongs on Twitter. Avoid tweeting things that are too personal or any ideas you haven’t yet developed into pieces of your own.
- Give credit where its due. If you’ve found something funny, useful, or great through another Twitter user, give credit to your source. They’ll appreciate it and return the favor.
- Tweet with purpose. One of the rules you should live by when using Twitter as a journalist is to always tweet with a purpose. Share tweets that are relevant, interesting, and engaging for a large audience, not just to your friends or family.
- Use photos in your tweets. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and when you have a limited amount of words to work with that can be especially useful.
Twitter is a pretty useful tool on its own, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t get a boost from apps that target specific needs. A few are listed below.
- Curate your tweets in Storify. Sadly, most people will miss much of what you post on Twitter. Storify is one way to change that, allowing you to curate your best tweets, build a story out of them, or just save them for later.
- Stream live video through Twitcam. While Twitter is mostly used to type short messages, apps like Twitcam can help you use it to showcase videos, too. For those heading into broadcast journalism, this can be a great way to practice and get exposure.
- Get local. Those looking for local feeds and stories should try out tools like TwitterLocal and NearbyTweets.
- Check out a list of journalist Twitter tools. The list accessed through this link is just one of many out there sharing some of the best Twitter-focused tools available today.
- Use ExpertTweet for research. Need an expert opinion or quote for your story? ExpertTweet can hook you up with an expert in just about any field.
- Verify tweets through HoverMe. HoverMe is a great way to see if a Twitter account is legit. While it isn’t foolproof, it can tell you if it’s even worth bothering to explore a lead or source further.
- Employ a Twitter dashboard. There are a number of Twitter dashboards out there that make it easier to plan tweets, manage multiple accounts, and generally be awesome at Twitter. Use one!
Building Your Brand
Twitter can be an excellent place to get your name out there and to become a well-known voice in the journalism world. Here are some tips to help you build your social media brand.
- Be smart about using Twitter as a brand-building tool. Nearly every business and serious businessperson these days has a Twitter feed. Why should you be an exception? Use Twitter as a way to build your personal brand and to define yourself as a journalist.
- Share your writing. If you’ve written something really great, Twitter is the perfect place to show off your work. You may even find leads for jobs and internships in the process.
- Link tweets to your website or blog. One way to showcase your talent and to make a name for yourself as a writer on Twitter is to link your short tweets with your longer work, showcased on your blog or website.
- Don’t just tweet links to your own work. While your Twitter account can be a great way to direct readers to your own work, it shouldn’t be the only thing you use it for. Instead, balance out links to your projects with links that you find interesting, savvy commentary, or conversations with colleagues and friends.
- Be professional. Ideally, your presence on Twitter should balance professionalism with accessibility, creating a polished image but not so polished that others don’t feel comfortable talking with you.
- Be a valuable resource. One way to build the cachet of your Twitter account is to become a valuable resource. Consistently post great articles, share information about journalism issues, and try to make yourself a must-read resource for keeping up with the news.
- Look forward, not back. It can be tempting to bemoan the downfall of traditional print journalism, but it’s better to look forward than to look back. By examining new ways that you can use social media and web resources to pursue journalism, you’ll be ahead of the curve when you graduate.
- Link Twitter to your other social media accounts. Don’t make your Twitter stand alone. Provide links to your other social sites (Facebook and LinkedIn especially) on your bio, or set things up so that your tweets also post to other sites.
- Make it personal. While you do want to be very professional, there should also be an element of the personal to your tweets as well. Share things that you are passionate about or that are unique about your perspective.
- Cultivate expertise. Because you are a student, you may not be able to attain expert status on Twitter right away, but it doesn’t hurt to build up your reputation now so it will be in place later on when you take on the professional world.
- Make it easy to contact you. If someone is interested in what you’re writing, don’t make it hard for them to get in touch. Share an email address or other contact information right on your bio.
- Find a positive way to stand out. There are millions of people on Twitter and thousands of journalists, so if you want to gain distinction on Twitter, you’ll need to find a positive way to stand out.
- Focus on your area of interest. One way to distinguish your feed and to build a brand for yourself is to focus on an area of interest, like a specific region of the world or a topic you find engaging. Whatever it is, it can help bring in others who are interested in that topic as well and who may just become loyal followers.
- Track your progress. As you gain followers and start to have a real Twitter presence, it can be a good idea to check in now and then to see how you’re doing. Chart your followers, how much you’re tweeting, and take a look at other factors to measure your Twitter success.
Growing as a Journalist
Use these tips to learn how to be a better writer, researcher, and Twitter user.
- Get feedback. Sharing your articles, ideas, and opinions on Twitter is a smart way to get feedback that can help you improve what you write, do better research, and grow as a writer.
- Use Twitter to learn to write succinctly. Being able to write clearly and concisely is an excellent skill to have, and Twitter’s format can help you to hone that skill by making every word count.
- Be your own editor. It’s essential to proofread your tweets before sending them out, so learn how to be a good self-editor.
- Correct errors immediately. If you do make a mistake, however, whether with spelling, grammar, or factuality, admit to it and correct it immediately.
- Learn new things. Twitter is a great place to learn new things from people all over the world. Take advantage of all the opportunities it offers for you to grow as a professional.
- Occasionally, take a side. While you may want to be balanced in your reporting most of the time, it can occasionally be useful to write an opinionated editorial where you take a side and defend it.
- Consider your audience. One thing that can help determine how you write and what you choose to write about on Twitter is your intended audience. You’ll need to vary your technique depending on who will be reading your tweets.
- Experiment. While there are a few guidelines you should follow when using social sites like Twitter, it’s also very productive to use them to experiment with new ways to tell stories and share news. You never knnow, your discovery could be the next big thing.
- Hone your headline writing skills. Because you have to be short and sweet on Twitter, you’ll want to learn to write amazing headlines when you’re linking to your own stories. If you’re not sure how to start, reference a helpful guide online.
- Educate yourself about the business. One of the smartest ways you can help yourself to grow as a professional through your Twitter account is to use it to learn more about what it means to be a professional journalist today. You can read stories on the matter or just interact with those who are in the business.
- Learn about the competition. Journalism is a highly competitive field, and while it’s less so at the college level, that doesn’t mean you can’t check out what other college journalism departments are doing with newspapers, radio, and other media.
- Find help with your writing. Everyone, even great writers, has room for improvement. Seek out help in honing your writing skills from chats, professional writers, or even direct feedback via Twitter.
Twitter is an amazing place to connect with other students, professional journalists, alumni, writers, and more. These tips and ideas can help you start networking using the social site.
- Get feedback. Sharing your articles, ideas, and opinions on Twitter is a smart way to get feedback that can help you improve what you write, do better research, and grow as a writer.
- Make connections with journalists on Twitter. There are numerous journalists who use Twitter as a tool for breaking news, networking, or just sharing stories. Get to know them and learn from the insights they have to offer about working in professional journalism.
- Help others. Offering to help others on Twitter can be a great way to build relationships and may help you down the line when you need a favor.
- Engage with other professionals and students. There are thousands of journalists and journalism students on Twitter, so there’s no reason not to connect and network with a few of them.
- Look for work. Twitter can actually be a smart place to look for a job. You can search listings, talk to those who might be hiring, or just put out the word that you’re looking for work.
- Ask for professional advice. Have a professional quandary? You can get help by asking those you’ve connected with on Twitter for their insights.
- Respond to comments. If someone comments on your status or link, comment back.
- Tag others in great tweets. Got a link you know someone will love? Tweet it and tag them in it.
- Seek out internships. In addition to job opportunities, students can also find openings for internships through tweets and connections on twitter.
- Host your own journalism student chats. There are already a number of journalism-focused chats out there, but you could always start your own to help build a stronger Twitter network.
- Support fellow students and coworkers. If your friends and coworkers are on Twitter, share their achievements and stories along with your own.
- Follow professors. Twitter can be a useful tool for getting to know your professors a little better, letting you engage with them outside of class.
- Connect with alumni. There are undoubtedly a number of alumni from your school on Twitter, and maybe even some who went into journalism.
- Don’t be afraid to send DMs. If you want to talk with someone, don’t be afraid to send them a message, especially if it’s something you don’t want to broadcast all over Twitter.
- Join a twitter community. Consider joining a Twitter community like ReporTwitters or Twittown to get connected with other users.
- Leverage common connections. Just like you would in real life, use your Twitter connections to help you meet people, start conversations, and get ahead.
- Start a conversation. You don’t have to wait for someone to start a conversation with you. If you want to get to know someone, whether a journalism student or a interesting person, just send them a tweet.
Here you’ll find some ideas that can help you get inspired to write and share all kinds of amazing stories on Twitter and in your work.
- Crowdsource ideas for stories. Deadline approaching and you can’t think of anything to write? Use your Twitter connections! Ask for some ideas or inspiration that can help you produce great stories.
- Use Twitter to find inspiring ideas. Twitter can be a great place to find inspiration for your writing. You can use news, personal stories, quotes, and other random things that come through your feed to get you thinking about particularly fruitful topics.
- Keep up with trends via Twitter. Twitter is perhaps one of the best places to keep abreast of the latest trends and to figure out what people will be most interested to read. You can use Twitter’s trending topics section to tell you what’s popular, or try an outside service like Trendsmap or What the Trend.
- Look for buzzwords. One way to key into potential stories is by looking for buzzwords that are big right now. Search for these hashtags to see what people are saying about them. You may come up with an idea for a story, or find the perfect source.
- Look for tweets about your college. Search for tweets about your college to find inspiration for a story that you’ll be able to research right in your own backyard.
- Practice live tweeting events. If you don’t have anything to tweet about, consider live tweeting the next talk or event you attend.
- Share comments about campus events. Whether you’re hitting up a movie night on the quad or heading to a very serious talk about political issues, tweet updates and comments about things that are relevant to your local community.
- Tweet your own breaking news. Got breaking news about something that you’re interested in? Be the first to tweet it!
- Stick to your beat. There are often loads of stories just begging to be written about in your local community. Use Twitter to find inspiration for them.
- Be on the lookout for leads. Sometimes, an amazing story is just waiting to be discovered; you just have to notice it and follow through. Follow this link to see a few amazing examples.
Who to Follow
Unsure of who to follow on Twitter? Here, we offer some tips and suggestions for getting started.
- Follow news outlets. Keep up with the latest and most important news in the world today by following an assortment of major news outlets. Make sure to also include a few that are in your local community, which can help you with writing your own stories for your school paper.
- Check out useful hashtags. There are a lot of great hashtags out there that can be valuable for budding journalists to check out. Try #journalism, #news, #apstyle, #HARO, and #partylikeajounalist to start.
- Raid the lists of tweeters you like. Not sure who to follow? You can get some leads by checking out who your favorite tweeters are following. It can be a great way to find quality tweeters that can add real value to your Twitter experience.
- Use Twitter for learning about breaking news. Twitter is one of the best places to catch breaking news as it happens. To make sure you get the scoop, look for hashtags and feeds that focus on the latest news.
- Be choosy about who you follow. While some may follow back anyone who follows them, a smarter method is to be very selective about who you follow.
- Take advantage of Twitter’s advanced search options. The advanced search options on Twitter can help you to find other Twitter users who share interests, who attend your school, or are from a certain place, all of which can be useful in seeking out people to follow.
- Choose quality over quantity. When it comes to following people on Twitter, quality always trumps quantity. Choose feeds that will actually be beneficial to you to follow, so you don’t waste your time reading or managing tweets that aren’t of value.
- Look for editing resources, too. While you may want to focus on connecting with journalists, broadcasters, and writers, don’t forget to seek out some editing resources, too. These individuals can help you to refine and hone what you produce.
Important Things to Remember
These last few reminders will help ensure your Twitter experience as a journalism student is productive and professional.
- Make sure sources are reliable. Before using a source you’ve found through Twitter for a story or even just to retweet, make sure he or she is reliable.
- Remember, tweets are forever public. Remind yourself of that before you tweet something. Is it something you’d like on public record? If not, don’t tweet it.
- Be skeptical. When things don’t sound legit, they probably aren’t. Always be skeptical of things you see on Twitter and investigate them on your own.
- Think before posting. Tweeting things without thinking about the implications of doing so can be messy. Never tweet while intoxicated, angry, or upset.
- Be careful with jokes. Without intonation, facial expressions, and other forms of context, jokes can quickly go from funny to insulting on Twitter. Make sure you’re not crossing the line before making an online quip.
- Use tweets as background or additional material, not your core source. Tweets can be a great way to learn about events, but those tweets shouldn’t be your only sources for a story. Use more traditional methods to get primary sources.
- Don’t use a social media handle for attribution. On that same note, a social media handle isn’t appropriate attribution. Find out a real name instead.
- Never tweet or retweet anything you can’t back up with proof. If a tweet sounds questionable, it probably is. Always seek out the original source to verify before tweeting or retweeting something.
- Have fun with Twitter, too. Even with all of these other tips in mind, it’s important to have fun using Twitter. It can be a great way to connect, learn, or just commiserate with other journalists and students.