March 21, 2016

In honor of 10 years of journalists tweeting (and getting into Twitter fights, tweetstorming and tweeting hot takes), here are 10 guides to using the social network from our archives.

These include advice from people such as Craig Silverman, now editor at BuzzFeed Canada, on posting Twitter corrections, Nisha Chittal, manager of social media at MSNBC, on figuring out what’s public and private on Twitter, and David Beard, executive editor at PRI, who suggested eight ways to attract followers.

10 ways journalists can use Twitter before, during and after reporting a story By Mallary Jean Tenore, 2011

One way Tenore suggests using Twitter is to curate reactions to the news. She writes about tweeting a stylebook change from the Associated Press and watching people on Twitter go crazy.

The tweets prompted me to write about the style change and capture people’s reactions in my lead: “When the AP Stylebook announced via Twitter that it was changing the style for ‘Web site’ to ‘website,’ some users let out shouts of praise: “Finally!” “Yes!!!” “Yeeha!”

Since Twitter hasn’t built a correction feature, here are 3 things journalists can do instead
By Craig Silverman, 2013

Among his suggestions, Silverman saw room for cooperation that amplifies what’s really happening and collectively calls out hoaxes during breaking news situations.

During emergencies, news organizations that might otherwise compete can work together and help spread good information, banding together to call out hoaxes and fakes. This kind of coordination can amplify the good information and help it rise above the fake and unreliable content that’s frankly more appealing from a sharing standpoint.

Journalists offer tips on enduring — and learning from — storms of Twitter rage
By Benjamin Mullin, 2015

Mullin spoke with three journalists about how they make it through tweet storms. Feministing’s Jos Truitt told him that having people to talk to in real life helps.

I find it essential to have coworkers who can be my reality check. A Twitter attack from two people can feel like the end of the world when it’s about you personally – it’s helpful to have folks in my corner who remind me that thousands of people read my work and don’t respond because they love it, and who can give me a sense of the actual scale of the attack. When I or one of my coworkers is targeted with a call out about a genuine screw up, other folks can help separate out critique from the personal attacks that seem to inevitably get mixed in on the internet, and help figure out the best way to respond.

8 tips for using Twitter Lists
By Nina L. Diamond, 2012

Diamond, who is usually one of the first journalists you’ll see on Twitter with a list just when you need it, shared a blueprint for creating and pruning your own Twitter lists. She wrote:

People on Twitter often ask me if I have three heads and six hands. No, I tell them, I have Twitter Lists.

We’re using hashtags less than ever. Here’s why.
By Shadi Rahimi, 2015

AJ+’s Rahimi wrote last year about newsroom discussions around the benefits and ethics of using hashtags. This isn’t a typical how-to, but it does offer a look into issues her newsroom, and likely many others, face while tweeting the news.

Amid the Baltimore unrest, I’d pushed one of our reporters to clarify whether an event he was at could be described as a “protest” or “rally” or “community gathering” or “group of people,” etc., before I tweeted on his behalf. But when it comes to hashtags, the agenda had already been set by users. As media, it’s up to us to decide how and whether to use them.

And whether we do, or not, we should be able to defend that decision.

What every young journalist should know about using Twitter
By Kelly Fincham, 2012

Fincham, a journalism professor, offers many tips you might expect, including remembering that Twitter is public and the importance of acting professional. But there are some good reminders here for pros, too.

Add value with each tweet & see the bigger picture.

Leslie-Jean Thornton, associate professor at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, says students should also use Twitter to add value to their online identity and shouldn’t “waste a tweet.”

“Add value with every one of your tweets. Sometimes the value is revealing yourself as a nice, maybe even witty, person they’d like to be around. (Do this in small doses). Other times, you might add a comment to a link you’re forwarding or further a discussion in a meaningful way,” Thornton said via email. “Give as much information as you can. ‘New blog post’ is pretty useless. Giving a clue as to the post’s substance is meaningful even if the person doesn’t click through to the post.” It’s a good idea to tweet links to not just your own stories but to other stories you’re reading.

5 ways that social media benefits writing and language
By Mallary Jean Tenore, 2013

Social media helps writers develop their voice, teaches the value of writing short and “reminds us that change is constant,” Tenore wrote.

Language is always evolving, and technology is a healthy part of that evolution. In some ways, technology has taken us full circle.

8 ways to attract more Twitter followers
By David Beard, 2013

Ask yourself, “Is my tweet awesome?” Beard wrote.

I mean, AWESOME. Tweet images. Find the wonder, incredulity, surprise. Don’t overdo it, though; if you’re saying “Whoa!” and “Wow” every hour, you’ll lose your credibility and people may not take you seriously.

3 lessons from BuzzFeed’s Twitter swarm during the Golden Globes
By Sam Kirkland, 2014

Kirkland, now on BuzzFeed’s product team, checked in with the outlet after the Golden Globes for tips on how to work Twitter during a big event. One pointer: Don’t wait for the link.

Lots of news organizations use Twitter mostly to direct traffic to their websites. But during live events, waiting to post a relevant story to your site so you can have a link before you tweet sacrifices a certain amount of timeliness — not to mention instantaneousness, which is BuzzFeed’s goal. Or it means tweeting the same link to a live blog or a periodically updated story over and over again. That’s no recipe for engagement.

How to decide what can be published, what’s private on Twitter and Facebook
By Nisha Chittal, 2012

Can you use tweets in your reporting? Should you ask permission? Chittal found people in both camps. You should ask permission to use tweets, said Jacqui Banaszynski, a professor of journalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and Poynter visiting faculty. The late David Carr saw it this way:

“I consider everything on Twitter fair game and as long as I am confident that the person and the avatar are one and the same, I use it comfortably,” said New York Times media columnist David Carr by email. “Twitter is a village common and everything said there, however considered or not, is public. If I think something needs context, I will report it out, but I assume that if someone is saying something on Twitter, they want it to be known.”

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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