This week, Twitter celebrated its 10th birthday. A big anniversary for a company that has come a long way and is now undoubtedly a significant part of most journalists’ toolkit.

At GateHouse Media, we have been big advocates of Twitter, asking our journalists to have professional accounts and making tweeting a daily way of life.

In recognition of those 10 years, here are 10 things I have learned about Twitter:

  1. No auto feed: Twitter can be a solid news experience but the best Twitter accounts are not RSS feeds — they are thoughtful posts that show off the tweeter’s personality.

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    Northwest Florida Daily News’ reporter Lauren Delgado (@LaurenDnwfdn) gives readers insight into life in her newsroom.
  1. Links not always necessary: While news organizations always want to get benefit for their work (meaning traffic), that isn’t always the best approach with Twitter. The color that a reporter can distribute through their reporting on Twitter can be just as meaningful as a link to a great story. 
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    The Holland Sentinel’s Curtis Wildfong (@SentinelCurtis) live tweets breaking news before an article is written to link to.

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    The Holland Sentinel’s Curtis Wildfong (@SentinelCurtis) live tweets breaking news before an article is written to link to.
  1. Lists: They are a great way to follow an area you are interested in or to create conversations around a topic. They are one of the useful, organizational features that Twitter offers.

    The Journal Star’s account (@pjstar) maintains organized lists of Twitter accounts that readers can subscribe to for specific types of news.
  1. Add value to retweets: Don’t just retweet. Add a comment or pull something out of the article that triggered your interest. While retweets are a good way of distributing useful information, they become more valuable when you add a personal touch.

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    Senior Director of Content for GateHouse Media News & Interactive Division Jean Hodges (@jeanhodges) adds her own commentary to retweets.
  1. Go native with video: Because of Twitter’s auto play feature, posting content natively in Twitter is a good strategy. It’s good for viewability and auto play has become commonplace on social media platforms. A link strategy with video is yesterday.

    The Repository (@CantonRepdotcom) takes advantage of Twitter’s autoplay feature to post videos of breaking news.
  1. Images a must: Research time and time again says tweets with images perform better than those without. Images are an important strategy — and not just on Twitter. Images are a requirement for many tile-like website presentations today. Just make them part of everything you do. Have standard file photos on hand to help.

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    Northwest Florida Daily News’ reporter Lauren Delgado (@LaurenDnwfdn) adds images to her tweets to increase impact.
  1. Follow promotion: One of the best ways to drive increased likes is to have standard promotions for your account. Make sure “follow” promotions are built into the bylines on your websites. Have your handle as part of your byline and email signature, too.

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    Rockford Register Star writer Adam Poulisse (@AdamPoulisse) adds a link to follow his Twitter account in his byline.
  1. Build widgets: Category-based widgets on certain pages work incredibly well for sites looking to build Twitter engagement. Consider how to do that for areas like sports and entertainment.

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    MetroWest Daily News and Providence Journal reporter Scott Souza (@Scott_Souza) has his tweets about a basketball game in an embedded widget.
  1. Follow sources and search for local sources: Twitter’s advanced search feature can create quality results for finding relevant sources for stories. Also, based on your beat, follow as many relevant sources as you can find. It helps with engagement and it’s the place where you may discover tips for breaking news.

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    Twitter’s Advance Search menu
  1. Use hashtags and handles: Create engagement by ensuring that the majority of your tweets have a handle or hashtag. Make it a standard and expectation. Understand trending and popular hashtags. And have fun with hashtags. Get creative. Be funny, when appropriate.

    Daily Press reporter Charity Lindsey (@DP_Charity) uses mentions and hashtags, which lead to likes and retweets.

And then here’s one to grow on.

Ask questions and create conversation: While Facebook has traditionally been more successful for publishers when it comes to getting readers to share things like photos, Twitter still offers opportunity. Asking for information or multimedia around breaking or hard news on Twitter likely holds more potential than asking for pet photos. It’s more aligned to the content being created and shared on the network.

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