Simple Steps to Better Tweeting

My RTDNA blog, “How Journalists Can Utilize Twitter Better” was published today. Check it out!

By Nikki Burdine, LEX-18

In my two years of tweeting, I’ve picked up a thing or two. While some stuff still baffles me, I find myself being a resource for twitter-rookies, especially fellow journalists. Here are 12 things I’ve found that have made me a better tweeter.

1. Not many followers

A few things might be contributing to your lack of followers. If someone follows you, chances are you have something they find interesting, and you may feel the same way. Check out their Twitter profile, and if it’s not too much trouble, follow back. I almost always follow back, with the exceptions, of course, for spam and people who never tweet. I’ve learned if you follow back, you not only gain a follower, but you gain a resource. For journalists, that’s a valuable tool. As a reporter, you never know where your next story will come from. I can list numerous instances when I’ve gotten a story idea or tip from a Twitter friend. Had I not followed back, they may have eventually unfollowed me. People take that stuff seriously, believe it or not. If someone doesn’t follow back, it can hurt their feelings. Silly, yes, but true. Don’t get me wrong, there are several people I follow that I know will probably never follow me back. @BritneySpears, @BarackObama, @KatieCouric, etc. Maybe this blog will get their attention?? (sigh).  But alas, I won’t unfollow them. However, if I follow someone else that I find interesting and I expect we have something in common, but they don’t follow me back, I will unfollow. It’s Twitter etiquette. I have lots of Twitter followers that are viewers in Kentucky. We may never meet, but they might have a friend who has a sister who knows someone who was just in an armed robbery. Source! Know your resources and use them. It goes back to the old saying, treat everyone with the same amount of respect, whether it’s @KimKardashian or the guy who works at at the corner grocery. You never know!

2. Watch Your Grammar

This just may be a personal thing, but if all your tweets consist of double-negatives, profanity or things that just don’t make sense…guess what? Unfollow! As a journalist it’s extremely important your tweets are proper English. If you can’t tweet right, your work is probably just as bad.

3. Too much self-promotion, advertisements. It borders on spam.

I am sometimes guilty of it, “Check out my story from today!” But I also try to tweet articles, quotes or just funny things that I find interesting. If my followers are anything like me, they’ll find it interesting, too. But try to keep the pictures of yourself posing in front of a mirror to a minimum. Try not to be impersonal, if your followers feel like you are just using Twitter as another generic soapbox, they’re going to lose interest fast. It’s easy for us as reporters to promote our stories too often, just remember, not everyone cares about that car accident. But on the flip-side, don’t under estimate the power of your tweets. If you are going to breaking news, tweet it! Chances are your followers are in your viewing area and would love to know if that road is closed. So, just try to be balanced about it.

4.  Not enough tweets!

Why would someone follow you if you only tweet once a month? You’re not giving me anything. You’re a reporter. You have lots to say, I guarantee it.

5. You’re not getting your name out there!

Who is your favorite athlete? @Ochocinco? Follow him on Twitter. Look through some of his followers, or people he follows and connect with them.

For example, I follow my favorite journalists, reporters in other cities, public relations professionals, anyone in communications that I could possibly learn something from. Don’t limit yourself, follow away! Also, every now and then filter through your mass list of those you follow, and delete the ones that are less-than-valuable. Another way to get your name out there, share it on your station’s Facebook Fan page and your personal page. I’ve done that a few times and made some new tweeps fast. Some people might not even know your on Twitter! Make them aware.

6. Share the love

RT, Thank people, and interact! If you are all about “me,” your followers will start to notice. See a tweet you like? Show some Twitter props with a little RT. One of your followers great about providing feedback, mentions or RTs? Say thanks! A simple “Thank you for the RT!” can go a long way. You could also gain a valuable source for a story.

7.  Don’t over-tweet!

I admit it, I can be guilty of it. Usually during the 6 and 11pm shows on Saturday and Sunday nights. (I tweet during the newscasts). A friend of mine showed me her time line, it was just filled with @NikkiBurdine. Duly noted. I try to space my tweets out, because I’ve had to unfollow a couple of tweeps due to 25 tweets at one time. Annoying!

8. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

A great life lesson, but also a good twitter lesson. I hate seeing people get in Twitter arguments! It’s so catty. If I start to feel agitated by someone on Twitter, I try (repeat, try!) to step away from the computer and take a break. Twenty minutes later if it’s still bothering me, then I respond. But I try to keep it classy. Name-calling is just so not cool. It’s a turn off to your other tweeps too. Trust me. And as a reporter, getting into a twitter screaming match is not a good look. Your viewers will see you as petty and lose respect. It’s not worth it.

9. Direct Messages.

I get it, sometimes you need to send someone a message that should not go over the Twitter-waves. But not everyday. It gets annoying. Don’t DM someone five times a day. That’s just another message we have to respond to. But a note to reporters, don’t dismiss every DM either. You never know.

10. Be professional.

I know that cute picture of you and your coworkers shotgunning beers is so adorbs, but does it need to be Twitpic’d to all your followers? Probably not. This is a rule reporters should be aware of, with the enormity of Facebook and the ability to find anything on a person online. On the same note, do share a few personal things about yourself. I’m not saying tweet your address, but something little that people can relate to. After all, one of the purposes of social media is to connect with people who share similar interests. But again, keep it classy.

11. Your Twitter Handle

This topic reminds me of my middle school days when email was just booming. I created my first email address, “Tigger-something-@-hotmail-dot-com.” Yes, I loved Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. But when I got to college and was searching the real world for internships and jobs, the Tigger email address just didn’t cut it. Some girls never caught on to this, as I’ve gotten emails from aspiring reporters with addresses like “sexxybaby@-hotmail-dot-com.” Not cool. The same goes with Twitter handles. If your Twitter name is @hotgirl123, your followers will be along those lines as well—meaning 14-year-old-girls. Plus, who will find you on Twitter to follow you? Keep it simple, @YourName. Not available? Add something professional, like “ReporterYourName.”

12. Your Bio

It’s been said your Twitter bio is the new “elevator speech.” How true is that? You must describe yourself and all of your glory in 160 compelling characters. And that’s your pitch to get people to follow you. I know, us journos are so much more complex than 160 gives us the opportunity to explain. So, you put a link to your website in the bio for more info. I link my Twitter bio to my personal website, nikkiburdine.com. I know having a personal website is somewhat of a luxury, so don’t feel bad if you don’t have your own dot-com. You should, however, feel bad if your about me section is lacking. There is no excuse. Create your own website via About.me. It’s super easy, clean and informative. Boom, boom, boom. Everything you need to know. Sign up for an About.Me account here. There are a ton of other free websites you can sign up for in addition to About.Me.Check out Flavors.Me, or WordPress. You should have at least one of these.   I can’t tell you how many times someone has followed me, I do the courteous thing and check out their page to see if they’re worth the follow-back, and their profile is hurting. No profile picture, simply the colorful default “egg,” nothing written in the ‘about me section,’ and no location listed. Now you may just be lazy or unaware of how important this is to your Twitter growth, or you may be a Spammer. And I loathe Twitter Spammers. If you don’t put the effort into your bio, why should I trust that you’ll put the effort into your tweets? Sorry, you won’t be getting a follow from me.

There you have it. Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to a successful and obsessive-compulsive Twitter life. Enjoy.

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