In recent years, Twitter has gained widespread popularity around the world, and apparently thanks to the fact that it has transformed from a service for exchanging 140 characters into a real tool for the distribution and consumption of news in real time. While the daily newspaper prepares the news for printing, or the journalist on the website writes and formats the text, the user of this social network already knows the main details of the event that is happening right now, thanks to the tweets of a friend, reporter or just a random eyewitness. But in the same way, Twitter also comes in handy for mass media, and the main thing here is to use it correctly, which will be discussed further.
First of all, Twitter is a source of primary information. Its content is human-generated, and it’s generated very quickly, because writing a hundred and forty characters takes a couple of minutes, and it’s much easier than creating an entire blog post. But optimizing the use of Twitter as a source of information requires a certain approach. Not everyone can post interesting and useful facts and opinions, so it’s important to choose those people who match your interests and needs. Of course, you can’t assume that everything people write on Twitter is reliable, but at least they create informational leads that can be further developed.
It is convenient to use the built-in list mechanism for sorting and categorizing users. Even those who are not subscribed to can be included in the latter, and thus follow a certain topic without overloading the main feed.
Hashtags are used to highlight facts and opinions about certain events, people, companies, and even countries on Twitter. They make it easier to find and monitor information on Twitter. So, for example, you can track what people wrote and write about the MediaNext project (#medianext_ua), the Lviv Social Media Camp event (#uasmcamp) and other events.
Working with hashtags and lists makes it difficult to work with the web version of the service, so for ease of use, you should pay attention to special client programs, such as TweetDeck, Seesmic, etc. (a more or less recent list of clients for various platforms is collected here).
Secondly, Twitter is a means of disseminating information. Through their own accounts, people share their own thoughts and observations, and mass media announce and publish links to their own materials.
By the way, the publication of material titles with links to them on Twitter can be fully automated using special services such as Twitterfeed and RSS2Twitter. For these services, you only need to specify the address of the publication’s RSS feed, and all news will automatically appear on Twitter. It is important not to overdo it with the amount of news that will get to your twitter account. It is better if there are no more than 8-10 such messages during the day.
Automatic publication of your news on Twitter is possible not only through third-party resources. Such functionality can be provided in the site itself – when the headline of the news is automatically sent to Twitter after publication.
But not only the media itself, but also its readers can contribute to the popularization of materials on Twitter. To do this, you need to place a “Tweet” button in the articles, when you click on it, the title of the article and a link to it will be placed in the twitter feed of the reader who clicked on the button.
You don’t have to limit your Twitter presence to just one account. If the publication offers several sections at once and generates a lot of news, then it makes sense to allocate a separate account for each section. This will be more convenient for the mass media, since each account will be followed only by the editor responsible for the section, and for readers who are rarely interested in a wide range of news.
This practice has already been implemented, for example, by Gazeta.ru, which uses eighteen accounts at once.
Third, Twitter is about people. In them, you can ask for advice or ask to speak on one or another issue, which will be useful to journalists who want to cover a certain issue more broadly. And if there is a need to conduct an interview, then the list of questions can be supplemented with those suggested by your readers (followers on Twitter). They can also sometimes participate in supplementing the report if they are specialists in the topic you need or were eyewitnesses to the events you are writing about.
How the media can use Twitter in their work
Thanks to the large and daily growing number of people connected to Twitter, it becomes much easier to understand the mood of society, current topics and problems, because most of the records are in the public domain and are analyzed by various statistics services, starting with the built-in Trending Topics.
And, finally, Twitter is also a tool for expanding the audience and popularizing the mass media. Any mass media should be interested in as many channels as possible for the distribution of its own content, which includes Twitter. With the right strategy, a social network for messages in 140 characters can bring an audience of a completely new type of readers who will be ready to respond to materials, criticize and complement them. Yes, publishing links to news on Twitter is another modern way to reach your readers and expand their audience on par with RSS and email distribution, but you should not turn this channel into an archive of links to the site – if you are present on Twitter, interact with readers , interview them, respond to their thoughts (but don’t be intrusive).
For example, ReadWriteWeb listens to its Twitter readers when they point out errors in the texts, offer ideas for future articles or advice on improving the appearance of the site.
The editors of the Huffington Post also created an account for each section, but began to fill it not only with their own materials, but also with retweets from industry professionals, hot facts and links to other interesting articles carefully selected by the editors.
It is strategies with intended interaction with readers that are most effective in social networks, which, in fact, were created primarily for communication. For example, 500,000 people already read the Twitter account of the global news agency Reuters, and the Ukrainian online publication Korespondent has 2,000 followers.
Thus, thanks to its global popularity, Twitter is increasingly becoming a channel of information dissemination for mass media. And judging by the active growth of this social network in Ukraine (currently there are almost a hundred thousand users), in fact it is becoming more and more obvious that Twitter is a powerful tool that sooner or later will be used by all modern mass media.