TWITTER as a tool for journalists was the subject of an interactive demonstration at the March London Freelance Branch meeting.
Janet Awe (@AwesomeComms) was our trainer for the evening. She runs LFB's Twitter feed, which, as several members noted is worth taking a regular look at, especially for the job alerts!
|Janet Awe describes social media - in person
Janet was assisted by Tom Davies (@tomdaviesE17) and Sonya Thomas (@writehandmedia) who helped members set up Twitter (www.twitter.com) accounts and download Tweetdeck - www.tweetdeck.com - free Twitter content filtering software that you run on your computer to help sort out the deluge of stuff on the Twitter website.
It was an all-singing, all-dancing and much appreciated multimedia PowerPoint presentation: members had brought their own laptops, iPhones and other devices, and there was even Janet's guide to Twitter and other social media circulated in "old school" hard-copy paper format.
Janet also uses Twitter professionally in her PR work, running Twitter accounts for clients. You need to spend time engaging with people to make Twitter to make it work for you.
First, the real basics: "tweet" can be a noun - denoting a message sent via www.twitter.com- or it can be a verb - the act of sending a message via Twitter. Those strings of letters starting with @ are people's identities in the Twittersphere.
|A hive of virtual activity
Topics covered included:
- "hash tags" are strings of letters starting with the # symbol (type Alt+3 on a Mac; visible at some random location on a Windows keyboard). These are used to aggregate topics for discussion) and how to use hash tags to seek topics of interest. Examples are #leveson and #Whitney RIP. Some events and TV programmes now start by announcing their own hash tag for debate on Twitter: #bbcqt for BBC's Question Time and so on.
- How to find people of interest to you through Twitter and its search functions.
- Using Twitter for short updates and to verify stories.
- "Following" other people on Twitter - that is, "subscribing" to their tweets so you see them when you log in.
- "Retweeting" - that is, showing their tweet to everyone who is following you.
- Accumulating followers of your own and using Twitter to get yourself a reputation as an expert.
- How to use Tweetdeck and its tools (such as "mentions") to tune out the "white noise" of cyberspace and let you focus on what content interests you. It's like having a Sky subscription - there are many channels you'll never watch and you need to take time to find the few channels that interest you.
- Tom Davies added that the well-timed sending out of the online versions of articles via Twitter as they are published is now part of what production journalists are expected to do in their job.
- Virus awareness; using Tweetdeck to block "creepy" followers; and other hazards. Janet advises: never Tweet when you're drinking alcohol!
- Twitter and time management. Janet spends about 45 minutes a day on "personal" Twitter stuff, and more on keeping up the conversation on clients' sites and (for free) on LFB's Twitter feed.
- Sending "DM" (Direct Message) tweets that go only to named individuals and not to absolutely everybody in the Twittersphere. (Imagine how career-limiting it could be if you sent a message intended for one confidant to the universe, possibly including your mum and all your bosses...)
- Deleting your account if you decide Twitter is not (yet) for you after all.
One member whose beat is higher education said she doesn't have to read the HE press any more: she just picks up on pre-sorted Twitter links to articles, retweeted to her by others who've read them and whose judgement she has come to value.
Twitter ye not!
Some who came along as Twitter sceptics said they could see that it would be useful to them in the future. Several who are not yet Twitter users observed that it would be invaluable in promoting their books. Some job ads for work as a press officer already demand that you come to an interview with a "social media profile" pre-prepared.
|Explaining the niceties
Others who came to observe rather than to sign up said they would give very serious and detailed consideration to exactly when and how to join Twitter when the time was right for them.
Look for the blue birdie "Follow @NUJ-LFB" button at the top right of the Freelance homepage and click it to, er, follow the London Freelance Branch Twitter feed. Freelance articles going online from now on have a "Tweet" button at the top right allowing you post a comment via Twitter and alert others.