There is no shortage of blog posts extolling the virtues of Twitter. I don’t recall too many, though, that suggest the 140-character messaging service can make you a better writer.
Sarah Duff does just that, including it as one of her five reasons journalists should be using Twitter. The other reasons are fairly routine: it is a great place to network, find story ideas and track breaking news. Here’s Duff’s reasoning for why it makes you a better writer:
“The nature of Twitter means that you have to exercise copywriting skills in order to tweet effectively. It’s a real writing challenge to stay under 140 characters and write something that’s both informative and intriguing enough to make people want to click on the link or retweet. Twitter allows you to hone your skills and provides metrics for how good they are (how many people retweet or click on your link).”
Duff offers this as her fifth reason, but I think it’s really two reasons wrapped into one. Refining one’s writing skills via Twitter can be helpful, especially when it comes to writing leads or headlines. But the easy availability of metrics merits further discussion.
One of the advantages of digital journalism is that everything can be, and usually is, measured. When used appropriately, the ability to publish content and directly measure the audience reaction is incredibly instructive. Also, tracking metrics within Twitter — by keeping an eye on retweets, clicks and followers — is a great way for journalists to experience the ebb and flow of online community-building.
The journalists who understand not only how to report and write a story but also how the dynamics of online community engagement work are going to be the future newsroom innovators. Twitter is a great training ground for all of this.