Top 10 Essential Twitter Tips for Student Journalists

There are four fantastic reasons to be active on Twitter, according to noted “tech evangelist and skeptic” Sree Sreenivasan: to find new ideas, trends, and sources; to connect with an audience in new ways; to bring attention to your work; and to enhance your personal and professional brand.

In one of the concluding sessions yesterday at The Poynter Institute’s Teachapalooza workshop, Sreenivasan, a Columbia University j-school dean and j-prof, offered a simple recipe for twitterific, tweettastic Twitter success.  An early hint of its effectiveness and ability to motivate: As he unveiled it, many j-profs in attendance were already testing parts of it out and rabidly tweeting his every word.

Sree (the journalistic genius) holds court on all-things social media inside Poynter, while outside Debby (the tropical storm) attempts to drown St. Pete, Fla.

Below is an outline of the ingredients he includes within the recipe and a bonus website containing all-things Sree.

10 Top Twitter Tips for Student Journalists

1) Make your Twitter bio blue.  Specifically, ensure it features as many live links and affiliated Twitter handles as possible.  It shows you’re plugged in and gives followers or potential followers easy access to other parts of the web featuring your awesomeness.  For example, Sreenivasan pointed out the bio of Poynter guru Al Tompkins.  It includes clickable promos for his book and a hyperlinked shout-out of sorts to his employer.  Notice all the blue?

2) Constantly update your Twitter bio.  Don’t think of it as a one-off, sedentary, all-encompassing, general blurb.  It should reflect the latest, greatest version of you, hyping new affiliations, sites, projects, and life stages.

Two big reasons: It keeps followers in the know about your goings-on in a much more permanent way than your scattered tweet promos– you know, the ones that are almost immediately lost within the Twitter scroll-down wilderness.  And it’s a clear sign of your Twitter activeness, confirming to followers that you value keeping your twit-presence relevant and up-to-date.

3) For your Twitter identity, KISS (keep it simple stupid).  Sreenivasan: “The shortest, most memorable Twitter handle is the one you should get.

It makes it simpler for potential followers to find (and then follow) you.  It provides you with an opportunity to stand out ever-so-slightly from the Twitter hordes with unmemorable names.  And it allows for easier real-world plugging– since more and more our Twitter handles are placed on PowerPoint presentations, printed on conference nametags, and included in introductory conversations with strangers.

4) Stick to one Twitter handle.  Resist the temptation to unveil a Twitter account for every new story series, blog, class project or anything else that may be defining you and your work for awhile.  (For professionals and educators, this includes your books.) In Sreenivasan’s words, “Create the brand around you, not on things that might disappear later.

Having multiple accounts rolling simultaneously– or having one go temporarily defunct while a new one springs up– will do nothing but split your followers and confuse people about where your truly worthwhile Twitter action is happening.  For major projects, create and promote the heck out of a related hashtag instead.

5) Follow more people.  Even if you are already following a bunch of people, you can always follow more.  It broadens your online conversation, contacts list, and knowledge base.  It also opens you up to more potential followers yourself.

6) Create what Sreenivasan calls an “A1 List.”  To occasionally cut out the clutter, organize a list of only those tweeters you hold up as your favorite, most helpful or most influential.  The list can help ensure you have an instant handle on the essential chatter of the moment, laid out by the biggies in your field or coverage area.

7) Employ and promote #hashtags.  They can be used to organize and keep track of all tweets focused on a single event, issue, class, or individual– including you.

For example, in respect to the latter, Sreenivasan always pimps #sreetips to digitally corral anyone tweeting about his lectures or web advice.  It’s one way he can keep up with what’s being said related to him.  As he shared, “Tweeting about someone, with a hashtag, is a way to talk about them behind their back, to their face.” :)

8) Follow certain social media buzzwords when it comes to content.  Specifically, while tweeting– or posting to Facebook– Sreenivasan recommends attempting to achieve one or more of the following adjectives: helpful, useful, informative, relevant, practical, actionable, timely, generous, credible, brief, entertaining, fun, and occasionally funny.

9) Turn to Storify for curation.  As Sreenivasan confirmed, the dirty secret behind Facebookland, Tumblrworld, and the Twitterverse: “Almost everyone will miss almost everything you do on social media.

It’s simply the nature of the beast– lots of competing platforms, a mind-altering amount of updates, and only pockets of moments when audiences check in each day. But there are ways to ensure your tweets don’t simply flatline and join the not-even-searchable discard pile: Curate them in Storify.  As Sreenivasan noted, “It’s the only way I know to keep these things alive.”

10) Treat social media seriously.  Whether on Twitter, Facebook or any other platform, constantly take stock of what you present to the world (wide web).  As Sreenivasan mentioned, it’s basically the only part of his work that, if screwed up, might quickly lead to him either being fired or divorced. :)

As an example of Twitter’s immediate, lasting impact, he shared a PowerPoint slide displaying a screenshot of the infamous Anthony Weiner “crotch reveal” tweet.  To be clear, he did not click on the embedded yfrog link.

Bonus website: @Sree’s Social Media Guide


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8 Responses to “Top 10 Essential Twitter Tips for Student Journalists”
  1. Great advice, Twitter and social media in general are becoming increasingly important to the world of journalism. It’s such a great way to gain exposure and the right contacts.

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