Reporters’ Guide to Twitter, or #HowTwitterShouldBeUsed

A screen capture of my Twitter timeline.

A screen capture of my Twitter timeline.

It’s so hard to cram so much into 140 characters.

I have several categories of tweets I send. My main requirement is that I must find what I type interesting – the thought process being that I can make something interesting to someone else.

Sometimes, that entails retweeting the governor of Virginia. Sometimes, that entails retweeting Wawa. Because I love Wawa.

My tweeting categories range from work-related tweets to Charlottesville happenings to hometown pride to “just for fun.” A number of my followers rely on my Twitter account to know about what’s in the news (recently, I tweeted updates from the scene of a plane crash in Albemarle County). But not all my tweets are Charlottesville-specific, as not all of my followers are specific to Charlottesville.

I bring this up after an informal survey by Charlottesville blogger Rick Sincere about local news personalities on Twitter. I ranked fifth in the number of followers I have. Two Newsplex colleagues rank above me, and three rank below.

I began building my follower base as a senior at Temple University in Philadelphia and continued building once I moved to Charlottesville.

From my standpoint, I find Twitter most effective in breaking-news or continuous-coverage situations, and that’s also when I find I use Twitter the most. Those are also the situations where Twitter is on the top of my mind. Updates from the McAuliffe campaign headquarters on election night or recapping a police press conference as it happens – those are the situations where you’re likely to see mass tweets from me in a short period of time.

The evidence of success in the tweets can be measured by the retweets, additional follows and conversations that ensue. Some of that comes along when the station account retweets reporters’ tweets, which I think is effective for a number of reasons. In cases where I flood my timeline with a continuous stream of updates, the station can retweet the most important ones and guide its followers to follow me for more in-depth coverage.

Primarily, a reporter’s Twitter account allows followers to get news in a more personal experience. When you can attach a face and a personality to the person delivering the news, I believe there’s an overall better experience in receiving the news – an increased level of trustworthiness.

I’m humble enough to know that nobody (that I know of) follows every tweet I send. (I’m sarcastic enough to write a sentence like that.) But those followers who catch one every now and then will know that I’m from Philadelphia, that I went to Temple, that I am an avid Phillies fan and that I have a dog named Rudy.

Even when I switch gears and begin tweeting about something breaking or newsworthy, I feel like the background is all relevant to the Twitter experience.

Of course, Twitter is only one aspect in the multimedia spectrum. Many Newsplex personalities have their own Facebook pages to keep up to date. I’m a firm believer in comprehensive Web stories to be posted on breaking news as soon as possible – even if it begins as a bare-bones, two-paragraph story.

Twitter has become a job requirement, and it’s one I have grown to enjoy and endorse. There are so many more possibilities journalists can find with it.

Just keep it to 140 characters.

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