As the newly appointed news editor of the American Journalism Review, I am constantly trying to meet new people.
And because I want to remember everyone I meet, I ask for phone numbers and emails.
And then I ask for a Twitter handle.
Occasionally, I hear this:
“I know I should be, but I’m not using Twitter right now.”
Most journalists who aren’t using Twitter professionally in 2013 are eager to learn how to use the platform, but at this point, feel a little awkward getting into it, as there are already so many seeming “experts” who know all the special tricks and seem to do it with ease.
Here are a few quick and dirty tips for getting started:
1) Get started. Seriously. Don’t delay. Twitter, around since 2006, is no longer a “new” piece of technology; rather, it’s an essential currency for communicators and it’s growing. In fact, teens are starting to prefer it more than Facebook, according to Piper Jaffray’s October 2013 report on teen social media and buying habits. Used correctly, Twitter is a place to connect with potential readers and sources and a platform to let others know your areas of expertise.
2) Don’t worry about being awkward at first. Everyone has a first tweet. Apparently, I thought the first thing I should ever say on Twitter would be a lame complaint about people who confuse their “its” and “it’s” in written copy. I’m not proud of it, but I kept going and it became easier with each passing day. Just think of something to say and say it (in 140 characters or less.)
3) Become familiar with some of the basic conventions of Twitter. This piece in The New York Times lays out some of the basics: “RT” means retweet, which is what you do when you repeat another person’s tweet. You can use the # sign to create hashtags to tag certain topics so people can search for them on twitter, such as #twitterforjournalists. Use the @ sign to send a tweet directly to someone else on Twitter. Want to tweet a reaction to me to this article? It might look like this: @LisaARossi Thanks for your great article on #twitterforjournalists! My response: “Wow, thanks for the nice tweet.” And then I would probably retweet your kind words, so your name appeared prominently to all of my followers and they could easily follow you as well.
3) Obey the same rules you would as a journalist. Be accurate. Be curious (asking questions on Twitter is a great practice) and be respectful. Not doing so could get you in hot water. (Google “Atlanta Journal Constitution mule tweet” for more information on how a poorly worded tweet can go viral — and not in a good way.)
4) Maintain only one Twitter account. Some people maintain two separate accounts, one as a professional feed, the other, personal. Often, those “personal” Twitter accounts are kept on the privacy setting, so the user has to approve those who see his or her tweets. The problem with that? Nothing is private on the Internet. How can you know that your followers would never take a screenshot of one of your tweets and distribute it? What if you break a big controversial story, and suddenly, your personal life becomes very interesting to the general public? People get fired over the mistake of private or secret Twitter accounts. The best Twitter accounts have personality and successfully meld the professional and the personal in one feed. For a journalist, this might mean tweeting a link to a great story he or she published one day, and making an observation about the newest Walking Dead episode the next. Let your followers know a little bit about who you are, but not too much.
5) Follow the advice of those who use the platform frequently and are probably eager to hear some fresh new voices.
Do you have an embarrassing first tweet? Get your full Twitter archive by following the instructions here. Post your first tweet in our comments section below or tweet it to the @AmJourReview account and use the hashtag #firstweet