Whitney Mathews

Beginner’s guide to using Photoshop in your newsroom

As an online editor at the Lawrence Journal World, part of my job is to constantly expand and adjust my skill set. I’m always looking for new tricks or technologies to learn and use in our news coverage. Until recently, my Photoshop skills were pretty poor. I could crop or make minor size adjustments to images, but found myself frustrated if I wanted to do something more advanced.

Rather than rely on someone else, I started taking online classes through a local community college and have used my new skills on a daily basis. Here are a few of the tips I’ve found most helpful when it comes to editing and adding images online. (For reference, I’m working in CS5. If you’re working in a different version, some of the options may not be available.)

Crop to exact sizes
It’s common for photos to need to fit a specific size in your CMS so that they don’t end up stretched or squished, or throw off the page display. For example, I often have to crop photos to pixel dimensions of 900 x 400 or 340 x 430. Using Photoshop’s crop tool presets will save you some time.

1. Open the image in Photoshop.

2. Select the crop tool from the tools panel on the left. If you can’t see the tools panel go to Window > Tools to make it appear.

3. In the tool options bar, you’ll see three fields where you can input numbers: width, height and resolution. Set the width and height to your required dimensions. (For this example, we’re using 320 x 240 pixels.) Make sure you type “320 px” and “240 px” so Photoshop knows you want pixels (not inches, which would create a giant image).

Leave the resolution at 72 pixels/inch. That’s a good resolution for the Web. If you’re printing an image, you want a much higher resolution like 300 pixels/inch. Keep in mind that the higher an image’s resolution, the longer it takes for your website visitors to download. If you’re sharing photo files with the copy desk (and your CMS doesn’t automatically compress images for you), you’ll want to upload images with a lower resolution.

4. With the settings in place, click and drag across the image. You’ll see a box with constrained proportions on the image.

5. Adjust the box until what is inside the box is your desired result. Hit Enter or click the crop tool in the tools panel. Your new image resizes and crops itself to 320 x 240 pixels.

6. Save a new image (so you don’t ruin the original) as a JPEG.

Extra tips:

  • You can use this method to increase the size of small images, but don’t expect a great outcome. Often, trying to blow up tiny images results in grainy, blurry pictures.
  • Photoshop usually saves these settings for you, so the next time you use the crop tool it will be ready to go with the previous dimensions. If you want to remove the settings, just delete the numbers in the Width and Height field.

Using selection tools to highlight
There are times when you may want to highlight a specific area of an image, be it a chunk of text or an area of a photo. The rectangular and elliptical marquee combined with an adjusted fill layer can help you accomplish that.

1. Open the image in Photoshop.

2. Select either the rectangular or elliptical marquee.

3. Click and drag the marquee over the area you want to highlight.

4. Now you have to invert the selection. Currently, the area selected inside the moving track will be affected by future changes. We want the area outside the selection to be affected. To invert the selection, go to Select > Inverse. You’ll see a moving track appear around the border of the image.

5. Make sure the foreground color is set to black by clicking on the tile and moving the color selector to the black corner of the color palette. Then go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color. You can name the layer if you want, but you don’t have to. Click OK if prompted. A black layer appears outside your selection.

6. You need to adjust the opacity of the Fill Layer so you can see the rest of the image, but the selected area remains highlighted. In the Layers panel (usually on the right side) make sure the Fill Layer is selected. Then click the opacity slider and select a setting between 50 and 60 percent. If you don’t see the Layers panel, go to Window > Layers.

7. Save a new image (so you don’t ruin the original) as a JPEG.

Spot healing
Sometimes you may need to make a cosmetic change to a story. I ran into this recently with a photo of a parking ticket, in which the ticket clearly displayed the make, model, license plate number of the car and ticket number. Using the spot healing brush and clone stamp, I got rid of the numbers and was able to post the image.

In this example, we’ll use spot healing to remove a time/date stamp from an image.

1. Open the image in Photoshop. Select the zoom tool (the magnifying glass) from the tools panel and zoom in on the area you want to change.

2. Select the spot healing brush from the tools panel. The spot healing brush is great, because it doesn’t need a sample area to draw from in order to make corrections (a similar tool, the healing brush, requires a sample from the image in order to work properly). Change the brush size in the options bar to reflect the size of the area you want to change.

3. Click and drag the brush over the area you want to heal.

4. Work your way across the area until healing is complete.

5. Spot healing works best on areas that are not surrounded by a lot of sharp, complex edges. In that case, try using the clone stamp tool, which lets you sample and clone specific pixels in an image. Not getting the results you want? Try adjusting the size of the brush to see how it influences the area you’re healing or cloning.

Do you have additional good tips to share? Leave them in the comments or send them my way: wmathews@ljworld.com Read more


8 must-have iPhone & Android apps for covering breaking news

At the Lawrence Journal World, we recently outfitted our reporters with iPhone 4s — a move that has yielded multiple advantages.

Having been an iPhone owner for years, I’ve compiled a list of apps for reporters and bloggers to download and briefly explained how to use them. Each one of these has proven helpful in my own work as a journalist and in our newsroom as a whole when covering breaking news.

Twitter for iPhone
This is a must-have. You can add multiple accounts, so reporters can live tweet events from both your news account and their personal account. It’s also a good contact tool.

5-0 Radio Police Scanner
An instant police scanner (with tens of thousands of feeds) anywhere you go. If you’re on the way to cover breaking news, you can listen to scanner traffic on your phone while you drive. With the Pro version, you can record scanner traffic as an .mp3.

Google maps
This app comes pre-installed on the iPhone. You can search for directions before going on an assignment and use it as a GPS. You can also bookmark favorite locations. And you can navigate your way home when you get lost.

The Weather Channel or Weather+
These apps are more accurate and simply better than the pre-installed weather app, and they provide more information. You can also get severe weather alerts and radar.

Voice Memos
This pre-installed app is best used to record podcasts and raw audio. You can edit files and email or text them after recording. On iPhones, the files are sent in a .m4a format, which is the MPEG version of an audio file. The file can be imported directly into iTunes or Garage Band for podcasting and editing. You may need to convert the file into an .mp3 if your CMS doesn’t handle .mp4 files. On Android, standard audio file format is a .amr, but other voice recording apps record in different file types that can be converted to an .mp3 using any file conversion program.

USTREAM Live Broadcaster
Instant live streaming on a 3G or wifi network. Log in and hit “Go live.” You can mute audio, add polls and record your live stream directly to your phone. This is a great option for breaking news and live streaming events or press conferences (as long as your network is reliable). Just make sure you use a tripod.

You can edit and share on the fly with iMovie for iPhone. The app lets you pick themes, add music, insert photos and record audio. You can then export and share the movie directly to the Web or add it straight to your computer when you sync.

  • Cost: $4.99
  • Android: No
  • Needs iOS 4.2.6 or later

Using this photo app is a great way to make your pics look artsy. You can also share them directly on multiple social channels or via email.

  • Cost: Free
  • Android: No
  • Needs iOS 3.1.2 or later

Remember to:

  • Add bookmarks to your Web browser as soon as you get your phone. Make a list of URLs you want to bookmark. Keeping an organized list of bookmarks will save valuable time when trying to navigate the Web. I keep bookmarks for adding and editing stories, photos and videos to our websites. I also bookmark URLs for sending text and email alerts, checking for local power outages and updating the home page of our main website.
  • Test upload photos, videos, text and audio from your phone’s browser. Some systems may not be compatible with smartphones, so have a plan in place for uploading content before a big story breaks.

What apps have you found helpful when covering breaking news? Read more


How to use fun (and free) data visualization tools for online storytelling

Some stories can be tough to visualize and make interactive on the Web. Many times, they involve boring data sets that are difficult to read, or aren’t visually stimulating enough for video or photos.

Here are a few fun, free visualization tools that you can use with a variety of data sets:


Wordle takes chunks of text and transforms them into colorful word maps. Its website describes what it does best:

“Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.”

Wordle also removes words like “the,” “and,” “of” and “a” to showcase the meat of a text document. And it takes documents that may bore your readers and makes them visually stimulating and easier to digest.

Here are some ideas for utilizing Wordle online (and even in print):

  • Lengthy reports from government agencies.
  • Legal documents.
  • Speech transcripts (see an example using Obama’s 2010 State of the Union Address below).

Tip: If you’re trying to copy/paste PDF text into a Wordle, but the text isn’t selectable, try importing it into Document Cloud. Document Cloud will give you a stripped-down chunk of selectable text after processing the PDF.

Click on the images above for a larger view.


Dipity.com is the best interactive time line tool I’ve come across. Not only is it free, but it allows you to use text, links, pictures and video in your time lines and then embed the time lines into stories.

With the free account (there is also a premium option) you can edit, embed and customize any time line, but users will have to put up with a little advertising. To use Dipity, you sign up for a free account and select “create a time line.” Give the time line a name and description and set permissions.

Add events to your time line and fill in the fields to include multimedia. When you’re done adding events, click “save and view time line.” If you ever need to edit your time line, log in to Dipity and select the events you need to change. You can even customize the look of your embedded time line.

Additionally, Dipity makes public time lines searchable, so anyone can stumble on your content if you’ve keyworded it correctly.

Tip: To drive more traffic to your site from Dipity, put a link in every event.

Martin Luther King, Jr. on Dipity.

This time line, which was featured on Dipity.com in January, highlights significant moments in Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.


With batchgeo.com, ugly chunks of data become interactive maps in the time it takes to copy, paste and click.

BatchGeo.com is a free, Web-based tool that lets you make interactive maps from spreadsheets. You can embed these maps on your websites and easily edit or update them. Since BatchGeo.com uses Google Maps, they’re also visible on mobile devices.

If you want a highly customized map, there is an upgrade option,

To make a map, start by creating a spreadsheet with the data you want to map based on the template that BatchGeo.com provides. The top of each column on the spreadsheet should be the title of a category like “address,” “city,” “state” or “description.”

When your spreadsheet is complete, copy and paste all of the cells (including the titles for the columns) into the BatchGeo.com form. Validate and set your options and click “Make Google Map.” Your data will process and markers will appear on the map.

If you’re happy with your map, save it. You’ll receive an e-mail with a link to edit or update the map at any time.


  • Unless you’re mapping spots in multiple countries, always select “United States” for the region. Also, always include city, state and (if possible) ZIP code. This will help BatchGeo locate your data points.
  • Use the “group by” option to categorize your data. Each “category” or “group” will have a different colored marker.
  • After you save a map, go back and edit the map’s properties. Specifically, make sure the “expiration” option is disabled. That will keep your map from disappearing if no one views it for over two months.
  • When updating data, always select “validate & set options.” Some options may automatically reset, so you want to make sure your options are set correctly.

Examples of BatchGeo.com maps

View Douglas County Foreclosures in a full-screen map.

Twitter widgets

Twitter has a slick set of free widgets you can customize to display anything from a single user account to an advanced search.

You can also edit the appearance, dimensions, title and caption. I recommend using Twitter’s widgets over a system like TweetGrid, because it doesn’t rely on a third party for information.

Here are some examples of Twitter widgets:




Some other data viz tools that are worth checking out:

Google Forms: Create free, embeddable forms to capture user-submitted data. Information goes directly into a Google Docs spreadsheet.

ManyEyes: IBM’s free data visualization tool. Upload your own data sets or use a pre-existing one on the site.

Trendistic.com: Follow the popularity of trending topics on Twitter with Trendistic’s embedddable graphs.

Digital tools aren’t a replacement for traditional storytelling, but access to them gives us the ability to tell a story in the best way possible — not just the way that is most convenient. Not every story will need a data visualization piece, but some stories could be told exclusively through visualizations such as maps, time lines and word clouds. Think about ways to add these tools, which can all be easily integrated into many websites, to your arsenal. Read more


How to effectively use Facebook mentions to engage users, share content

Facebook is a “walled garden”; its users value their privacy settings, and you can only see the information that they allow you to access. Despite these restrictions, there are still ways to reach new communities — you just have to get creative with the tools available to you as an individual Facebook user.

Facebook Mentions are the fraternal twin to Twitter’s @mention feature. Next time you update your status on Facebook, type @ followed by the first few letters of a friend’s name. A drop-down menu appears, allowing you to select the friend. When you publish that status, the Facebook mention links to that person’s profile and lands on his or her wall and newsfeed.

If you’re tagging reporters or sources, it may help to ask them first if you can tag them on Facebook. Some people like to keep their personal profiles separate from work or the public, and you don’t want to overstep your bounds.

You can also use the mention feature with Facebook pages. When you write a status update or post multimedia content and include a mention, the content posts on both your page and the mentioned page.

If you look at the screenshots below, you’ll see that the status update we posted on KUSports.com’s Facebook page duplicated itself on player Todd Reesing’s fan page and the Saskatchewan Roughriders page, thereby reaching two separate online hubs.

Facebook mentions also work as a great way to credit sources and other news organizations. CBSSports.com, for instance, was the first to report a significant element in a story about ticket scams at the University of Kansas, so I mentioned them in our status update:

After I posted the Reesing update on the KUSports.com page, we gained three new fans in a few hours. I don’t know if they came specifically from that update, but history has shown us that when we use mentions, our fan-base grows.

Here’s a checklist for you to follow when using Facebook mentions:

1) Before updating, check and see if any of the topics in the status update have a Facebook page. If they do, “like” them, if only temporarily. You must like a page or befriend a person to tag them in an update on your page.
2) Type the status like a regular sentence, but when you get to the subject you want to mention, start with the @ and select the page or person from the drop-down list.
3) The name of the page should show up as a hyperlink in the status update box.
4) Publish the update.
5) Check the page in the mention to make sure it appeared on that page’s wall.

Remember: If you add a mention to a photo or video update and then edit the photo or video, the mention will no longer be linked after you save the changes. Read more


How to organize & promote your news organization’s social networks

Social networks present new tools for exchanging information with your audience. But how can you help your audience know where to find you? Rather than rely on search, many news organizations are now using public directories to list their social media accounts. It’s a must-have if your news organization is going social (and it should be).

The point of a social media directory is to make information more accessible. Having one means users can easily find, friend and/or follow any or all of your accounts, but creating and maintaining a directory comes with challenges and commitment.

Major publications such as The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune have accounts for dozens of topics. Even my employer, a smaller organization that serves northeast Kansas, has more than 100 active social media accounts for news brands, beats, reporters and editors on networks that include Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla, Flickr and YouTube.

Kurt Kloeblen, managing Web editor at KCTV5 in Kansas City, told me via e-mail that the process of assembling the station’s directory has been beneficial for social media growth, but also requires regular attention. The page features a widget showing tweets from the station’s staffers.

“The hardest part about that is adding the new people as they come,” Kloeblen said. “It’s also been difficult to keep up with their tweeting, at times.”

Kloeblen is right. Speaking from experience, it’s a big task to keep that list of Twitter users, which is constantly changing, accurate and organized. The Chicago Tribune’s Twitter directory tackles the organization issue with a funnel approach. The Tribune lists its managers at the top of the page, followed by widgets displaying tweets in four major categories:

Below the widgets, you get more details, such as A-Z Twitter accounts and instructions on how to follow the Tribune’s lists. Scroll down more and you’ll find a breakdown of accounts by category. To help users find its Facebook pages, the Tribune links users to Facebook, where they can find a list of the Tribune’s favorite pages. Breaking the directory into major categories makes it easier for the user to locate and follow accounts that share information relevant to their interests.

The New York Times takes a slightly different approach, with separate URLs for Twitter and Facebook. The Twitter page has separate tabs for accounts and for lists, which Twitter users can subscribe to. (Learn more about lists here.)

The Times’ Facebook directory has columns for recent activity and popular stories, but you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the list to find a link to the Facebook page.

What I don’t like about The New York Times’ approach is that not only are the directories on different pages, they aren’t even linked to one another. Also, it takes some digging to locate these online communities on the Times and Tribune’s websites. That is no fun for the user, and it defeats the purpose of making the information accessible.

KCTV5 has added a prominent link to its homepage to publicize the page where the station links to all of its social media accounts. “We just wanted an easy way for our viewers to find out who was on Twitter,” Kloblen said.

Publicizing your directory can help users find it — and know that it exists. At the Journal-World, we send out a tweet and a Facebook update once or twice a week reminding people that it exists. If I know I’m going to be busy, I can pre-schedule these tweets using a third-party client such as HootSuite.

Integrating mentions of your directory into traditional media is important, too. We’ve added some accounts to our print product, and it’s not uncommon to hear them mentioned during newscasts as well. Using the resources you use to promote other station projects is perfectly acceptable when promoting your social media presence.

If you’re in the process of creating your organization’s social media directory, keep these pointers in mind:

  • List brands and individuals.
  • Clearly label and organize the accounts.
  • Don’t publicize inactive accounts (e.g. an account that hasn’t been used in a few weeks or months).
  • Encourage accounts holders to update their accounts on a regular basis.
  • Set reminders to update the directory for accuracy.
  • Publicize the directory often.

Leave any questions or comments below, or feel free to e-mail me at wmathews@ljworld.com. Read more


How to lessen social media security risks from third-party apps

How much time has gone by since you joined Twitter? How about Facebook?

According to WhenDidYouJoinTwitter.com, my Twitter birthday is April 26, 2008. Since that day, I’ve sent out more than 9,600 tweets and gained over 1,700 followers. I’ve also allowed multiple third-party applications (such as TweetDeck, TwitPic and Seesmic) access to my account.


There are a variety of reasons why I give these apps access to my account information. Maybe I’m testing a new product, posting a photo from my phone, or tweeting a link directly from a website. I often allow access without thinking twice.

But this can be risky. Apps all have access to different amounts of personal data. And as these applications add users, their databases grow and become targets for hackers. Bottom line: The more applications you use, the larger your security risk.

Companies often access your personal information via quiz and polling applications on social media sites, for instance. And just this month, Facebook has — for now — disabled a feature that let app developers have access to your addresses and phone numbers. Facebook and Twitter can’t really control how apps use this data, but both sites provide ways for you to manage apps that have access to your account. Here are some steps worth taking …

On Twitter

  • Log in to Twitter.
  • Go here to see a complete list of the third-party apps accessing your account and select “revoke access” on any apps you don’t want/need.

On Facebook

  • Go to Account > Privacy Settings in the top right corner.
  • Click “Edit your settings” under “applications and websites.”
  • Click “Remove any unwanted or spammy applications.”
  • Select the applications you don’t want/need and click “remove selected.”

On Facebook, you can also turn off all third-party applications:

Which apps should I delete?

When I clean clothes out of my closet, I use the “two seasons rule.” Meaning, if I haven’t worn the garment in the two previous seasons, I’m donating it to charity.

Use the “one season rule” here. If you haven’t used an app in the past three months, cut the cord. You can always allow access again if you need it. Also remove any applications that are no longer in service, since they’re useless anyway.

Don’t forget news brand accounts

Remember to go through this process for your news organization’s accounts, too. How mortified would you be if your organization’s Twitter account sent porn spam to all of its followers?

To remove apps from your news organization’s Facebook page, click “edit page” and scroll down the applications list. Then click “remove application.”

Removing apps from social media accounts won’t completely eliminate security risks, but it helps. Try to go through these steps every few months to keep your accounts as clean and secure as possible. Read more


5 Twitter tips for the TV anchor (or anyone)

KMBC-TV anchor Kris Ketz — who was recently named one of “Local TV’s Top Tweeters” by Broadcasting & Cable magazine — has come up with some effective tips for using Twitter as a TV anchor. I talked with him about his top five:

1. Be consistent

If you’re going to have a Twitter account, you should use it on a daily basis — at least during working hours. Just like your audience members can rely on you to be on the air, they should be able to rely on your tweets for information.

If your account identifies you as a member of your news organization, that makes you a social media representative for not only news content but for your company.

Ketz says it’s important to know what your audience wants and to be consistent in your offerings. “If people are following you then chose to stay with you,” he said, “that’s a good sign you’re on the right path.”

Since the publication of Broadcasting & Cable list, Ketz’s Twitter following has grown to more than 4,000.

Try this: Start a routine. Every morning before KMBC goes on the air, Ketz tweets the station’s top headlines. It’s something his followers can rely on every weekday morning to get the top news in Kansas City.

2. Be available

Your followers should feel as though they can @mention you with a valid question or concern and get a response. Just make sure you stay professional when answering them.

“Never forget you are a journalist first. Being careful with opinions is always a must,” Ketz said. “I always say I would never say anything on Twitter that I wouldn’t say on the air.”

This doesn’t mean you have to check your DMs and @mentions 24/7, but do your best to respond to compliments, complaints and questions on a daily basis.

Try this: If you can, tweet during commercial breaks while you’re on the air. If you’re active during the times you’re most visible, followers may send you tips, pictures and updates on breaking news that you can both retweet and share on the air (with their permission, of course).

3. Add a personal touch

Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook can help your audience understand what goes in to being a TV journalist.

“I’ve always maintained as hard as journalists work to tell other people’s stories, we do a lousy job of telling our own,” Ketz said. “Vehicles like Twitter and Facebook can help fill that gap by offering people a view of … yourself that they won’t see anywhere else.”

Your TV audience already has an idea of who you are based on your work. Twitter offers the opportunity for you to facilitate and expand discussions on these topics. Ketz said his Twitter account reminds him of nationally syndicated sports radio host Jim Rome and his rule for listeners who want to call his show: “Have a take and don’t suck.”

Try this: Start tweeting about a personal hobby or interest. Ketz often tweets about his son’s high school football games.

4. Offer an inside view of the industry

Twitter gives you the ability to tell the stories behind the stories. Adding pictures, short videos or behind-the-scenes observations to your tweets gives your audience exclusive bits they won’t get on the air.

“Twitter or Facebook can help supplement your main coverage in a variety of ways,” Ketz said. “Think of it as another reporter’s notebook and the possibilities are many.”

Try this: During your next major news event, offer up a picture of your work space or a screenshot of a breaking news video. Doing a live shot? Show your followers the truck or introduce your photographer.

5. Don’t waste your audience’s time

It’s tempting to link back to your news organization’s site with every tweet, but followers will start to feel like they’re being spammed. “I always try to choose (retweet) news that I think people would be interested in,” Ketz said. And he does this, even when the information isn’t coming from KMBC.

Even if the tweet doesn’t lead back to your website, users will remember the accounts that give them accurate, useful information quickly and consistently.

Try this: Retweet other news organizations’ tweets from time to time (like @BreakingNews) and give local journalists who aren’t part of your company Follow Friday love from time to time.

Have any other tips? Help start a running list by sharing them in the comments. Read more


How to use Twitter hashtags: Everything you want to know but were afraid to ask

A hashtag is two things: a label and a filter. Using a hashtag in your tweets is like flagging them as relevant to a specific topic — the topic being the hashtag. By searching for a specific label, users filter out any unwanted information from their streams.

Example: While “Lost” was still on (*moment of silence*) I set up a search on my Twitter client for the #LOST hashtag. Then I was able monitor the stream of content labeled with that hashtag for news, blogs, tips and links about the show.

Where do hashtags come from?

People create hashtags to help organize and promote tweets about a specific topic.

Example: At the (Lawrence, Kan.) Journal World, we started using the hashtag #FFLawrence for Final Fridays — a community art event on the last Friday of the month in Lawrence. We had live tweets along with our Google map.

Jessica Schilling, our social media coordinator, said the Journal-World used the hashtag #FFLawrence because the community was already adopting it. It’s also the account name for the official Twitter presence of Final Fridays, @FFLawrence.

Jessica started working for us a few weeks after Final Fridays started.

Another example: A few weeks prior to Bike to Work Day, we started promoting the usage of #ksbtw for any tweets related to cycling or riding bikes to work. We created the hashtag and “owned” it by promoting it, using it and encouraging everyone to use it across our websites and news coverage. (More on “owning” hashtags in a future post.)

Who can use a hashtag?

Anyone. Any account, any user, any company, any news organization. Hashtags are open to all users, and you can’t stop someone from using a hashtag.

How do I create a hashtag?

Anyone can create a hashtag. Just add # in front of a word and poof, #you’ve #created #a #hashtag.

How do I know if a hashtag already exists?

A: Go to search.twitter.com and type in the hashtag. If it’s been used in the past eight days, you’ll see it in the search results.

When should I use a hashtag?

  • Breaking news: We use the #ksstorms hashtag when there is severe weather or news about severe weather in our coverage area.
  • Event coverage: We aggregated any tweets with #lawstpats (see above) on our home page using a TweetGrid widget. Users were able to watch a live stream of the parade and read live tweets about the parade at the same time.
  • Ongoing coverage: Our niche site KUSports.com covers athletics at the University of Kansas. We use the hashtags #kubball and #kufball for any tweets related to basketball or football. Fans, bloggers, other news organizations and even the university use those hashtags, too.
  • National content: Use Twitter search to see if there are hashtags out there being used for national stories and use them for your local coverage.

If a hashtag is already in use, should I still use it?

If it’s relevant to the content of your tweets, of course you should. However, if you type in a hashtag and results pop up that don’t match your topic at all, try creating your own.

What if a competitor starts using a hashtag we created?

Get over it. Hashtags aren’t copyrighted property, they’re a free tool. Make your content more appealing to tweeters and the problem will solve itself.

There are multiple hashtags about one topic. Which one do I use?
Pick the one or two that are most popular. If you don’t have access to a paid monitoring tool like Radian6, try using a website like trendistic.com, which lets you track how often a hashtag was mentioned over a period of time.


How do you write a tweet using a hashtag?

You can do it two ways:

Write the hashtag in the tweet like it is part of the sentence:
World Cup
Add the hashtag to the beginning or end of the tweet (the end usually makes more sense):
Here are a few more helpful hints about hashtags:
  • The shorter the better. Save language real estate in tweets by using abbreviations whenever possible (e.g. #kubball vs. #kansasbasketball)
  • Hashtags can’t contain spaces. #oilspill = correct. #oil spill = incorrect
  • Don’t use a hashtag if it isn’t relevant. The followers won’t appreciate that and it gives you bad Twitter karma.

Coming soon: How to monitor and “own” hashtags. Read more