How to explain Twitter and use it correctly, before it’s too late

by Shawn Smith on March 7, 2008

Twitter etiquette should be learned by all

As Twitter gains in popularity (expected to have reached more than 1M users already!), more news orgs are catching on to Twitter and using the microblogging for posting breaking news, re-syndicating feeds and liveblogging.

This is great news! I’ve found more and more news people showing up on the network and have connected with many. I really reading about new projects of my colleagues and have gotten great feedback on my projects when I ask for it.

Twitter can help people connect with top minds in their respective industry in ways emails and phone calls never could. The days of awkward communication and profile stalking have ended. Twitter opens the communication lines to put nearly everyone on a level playing field.

Learn about Twitter

Are you new to Twitter or having a difficult time explaining it? Check out this Common Craft video that simplifies the service (Thanks Adam Tinworth for the find!)

Interaction is Key to building a viable Twitter network

What I have found out about many Twitter accounts, especially news orgs that are new to Tweeting, is that many of them simply re-syndicate their feeds to their Twitter accounts using Twitterfeed. This is a great use of Twitter, but a technique that doesn’t fully tap the power of the network.

Part of the Twixperiment we ran at my office uses Twitterfeed to syndicate feeds from our niche sections, and some of them have grown a decent following all on their own (@greenmichiganenvironment page tweets with 20 followers!). But like I said, the accounts of these networks won’t grow much. It takes interaction, which is what we try to accomplish with @MLive – an account with about 200 followers in fewer than a couple months and which is promoted on the Michigan Twitter Network.

As you can see, the account with more interaction has more followers.

If you’re going to Twitter, Tweet right!

Who says we need interaction when @CNN and @NYTimes and others have a couple thousand Twitter followers and they only re-syndicate their top stories feeds? Well, I’m guessing you or your news org isn’t quite as big and recognizable as either of those two outlets. That means your Twitter accounts aren’t likely to generate as much of a following without doing some work.

Here’s a couple tips for good tweeting and building a following:

  1. Write interesting Tweets. Whether you’re an individual or a news org, interesting tweets is what is going to generate follows.
  2. Be genuine. Give people reasons to trust you. Don’t promise amazing things in your links and send your followers to garbage content.
  3. Follow others! One thing that really caught my eye was checking out the Twitter accounts of @barackobama and @hillaryclinton. Obama has more than 14K followers and he follows back 13.5K. Clinton has about 1.7K followers and follows back nobody. Who do you think connects better with Twitter users (no preference on my part implied :) )?
  4. Share information about others too. Sure people want to know what’s up with you, but Twitterers also follow people who can be a resource to them. Likely, you’re not the only one creating great content on the web. When you find something interesting from another outlet or person, share it with your followers.

Get some Twittiquette

SEM (search engine marketing) consultant Jennifer Slegg drew up some thoughts for Twittiquette (Twitter etiquette) for marketing your blog without spamming. This can be easily applied to news orgs that are using Twitter to get their content out to a new audience.

Here’s a few of her tips (but you should read her entire post):

  • If you are going to send out a link to your blog entry on Twitter, at least make the effort to give it a killer headline that still works in the 140 character count once you have the URL in there too.
  • if you find something especially interesting, write a short but enticingly sweet headline, pop up a link and a @whoever shoutout.
  • don’t make the fatal faux pas of asking more than once for a Digg or Sphinn on the same post.

Slegg mentions that people who use Twitter to spam their stories have turned her off to the point that she has unfollowed some Tweeters. I can second that action and response.

A couple final tweets about Twittering

If you haven’t caught the Twitter bug yet, give a try to Twhirl. This is a desktop client that makes Tweeting a joyous endeavor. Other resources are listed on my ultimate guide to Twitter for journalists :).

I love meeting new people and following their tweets. Find me @shawnsmith and let’s connect!

Do you have any more thoughts about Twitter? Have you or your news org used it in an exciting way? Let me know – you can even send me a direct message!

{ 7 trackbacks }

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