Posts filed under 'Twitter'

New Tricks: Use ConvoTrack to track the conversation around your story

Reporters, pay attention.

ConvoTrack is a great way for reporters and editors, marketers and non-marketers alike to track the conversation around a given URL.

Here’s how it works:

1. Go to ConvoTrack, paste the URL of the story you’re trying to track.

2. Through this, you can find all of the conversation about your story in the following spaces:
- Twitter
- Blogs
- Digg
- Reddit

If you track the conversation, you’ll be able to jump in, and you’ll be able to add commenters — as well as the people who share your stories — to your Twitter/Facebook/etc. lists.

ConvoTrack is a great reporting tool.


Hat tip to Kevin Sablan over at Almighty Link for blogging about this the other day.

2 comments May 19th, 2009

New Tricks: Use to discover local Twitter trends is a great way of discovering local Twitter trends. Here’s how to use it:

1. Go to the site and click on your city. (To add a new city, suggest it on the site’s feedback form.)

2. You can either click on a specific local Twitter trend from the front page, or you can click through to the home page for your city. (Here are the pages for Chicago and Austin.)

3. Not only can you see the trends, but you can click through to the person who posted the Tweet. In the small amount of time I’ve used it, I’ve found a dozen new people to follow, all in my area, who I didn’t know before. seems to be another great weapon to add to your Twitter arsenal. (Twarsenal?)


3 comments May 19th, 2009

New tricks: Letting the Twitter stream flow

Guest entry by Christian McDonald, technical solutions manager for the Austin American-Statesman

Twitter’s search engine kicks. There was a collective cheer in the Twittersphere when Summize was brought into the Twitter family. It’s the fabric for hashtags and any other trend unfolding in our lives. Capturing such phenomena on a news web site can be a powerful way to show how news unfolds.

At the Austin American-Statesman, we’ve had a couple of occasions to use the jQuery plugin Juitter to pull Twitter search results onto our sites, most recently for our Swine Flu news aggregation site. It is an easy and quick way for a developer to display the power of a Twitter search in real time.

While Juitter isn’t especially hard to get going, it does require a developer’s access to the site you are running on. You have to be able to upload javascript files, and call them into the published html pages where you are displaying the results.

Juitter developer Rodrigo Fante has decent enough instructions on how to use Juitter on his site, but I did make some modifications for one project to show a Tweet’s @username and icon together, and to remove the superfulous “Read it on Twitter” link. You can see an example here, and download the system.js and jquery.juitter.js files that power have the changes.

(And big thanks to @stephromanski for pointing us to Juitter for a SXSW project, and to @andynguyen for implementing on our site.)

Christian McDonald shares news developer insights on

10 comments April 30th, 2009

Journalists’ place in a new world

I’ve heard it before, and I’m sure you’ve heard it, too: Social media is replacing the need for traditional journalists. People are getting their news from eyewitnesses in real time. The old journalism model is outdated.

Sounds depressing, if you’re a professional journalist. Good news: It’s not necessarily true. Journalists, even in the social media world, do have a role, and it’s an important one. I wrote a piece for Media Bullseye about the need for verifying journalists, and I broke down a recent incident here in Austin that illustrated that point. I also spoke on a panel at the University of Texas’ International Symposium on Online Journalism on Friday and made the same argument to a room full of international journalists.

Here is an except from the Media Bullseye piece:

People still will turn to the mainstream media to explain what is really happening, whether we’re talking about breaking police news or government fraud. But it’s up to journalists to be in a position where they can be heard – and can listen. If we weren’t deeply involved on Twitter before this incident, we would have been completely irrelevant to these people in this case. Instead, we had an important role to play.

Read the entire column here.

The journalism symposium, which is in its 10th year, features top journalists from around the globe. The theme this year, understandably, seemed to be “How Do We Survive?”

My panel, which was lead by Robert Rivard, the editor of the San Antonio Express News, included:

Paul Brannan, Emerging Platforms Editor, BBC News, (United Kingdom)

Rachel Nixon, News Director, (Canada)

Robert Quigley, Internet Editor and Social Media Coordinator, and

Dwight Silverman, Interactive Journalism Editor, Houston Chronicle

I only talked about Twitter during my 15 minutes of fame on the panel. I was invited because of our paper’s Twitter efforts. Traditional journalists have finally completely taken to Twitter. Every panelist mentioned his or her efforts in some way. I ended my time by telling the story about the man on top of the bar that I highlighted in the Media Bullseye piece.

Here’s an official blog post from the event.

The highlight of our panel to me, though, was when the BBC’s Brannan gave an eloquent speech about how it’s an exciting, innovative time in journalism, despite the back economic news. I wish I wrote down how he said it, but there’s no doubt he struck a chord with that audience. I’ll try to get him to do an Old Media Q&A for this blog.

5 comments April 20th, 2009

New Tricks: Gain more Twitter followers for your news organization

You’ve been rolling on Twitter for a little while — maybe thanks to our recent posts, even — but now you’re starting to get into it a bit more.

You may be doing all of the right things on Twitter: talking to other people, re-Tweeting folks, posting links to interesting Web sites and being helpful in general, but you may want to boost your visibility. (If anything, it may earn you a bit of breathing room with your bosses, who wonder why the hell you’re spending your time on Twitter.)

To do that, you’ll need to find some more people to follow. You’ll want to start by checking out these sites:

1. BackTweets: I recently wrote about BackTweets. It’s a site that helps you track people who post a link to your story on Twitter. Follow folks who link to you, your competition and, if you’re a local news organization, TV and radio stations, along with local blogs. If someone links to a story from your site, thank them.

2. LocalTweeps: LocalTweeps is relatively new, but it helps you find all sorts of local folks. Think of it as the “Twitter White Pages.”

3. Advanced Twitter Search: Since the main metric for local news organizations should be local unique visits, an advanced search is a great way to find folks in your neck of the woods. Need people within 10 miles of 60614? No problem. Simple.

That sounds like a lot, so here are the people you definitely want to follow:

- People who mention your news organization by name. This is self-explanatory, and you’ll be able to help troubleshoot for folks who, for example, are having problems with their subscription.
- People who re-Tweet you. This is a no-brainer. When the Chicago Tribune announced its redesign, the story got carried all around the Twittersphere:


To be honest, @ColonelTribune already followed most of the people who were mentioning the Tribune, but it never hurts to double-check.

- People who mention local issues and breaking news. In Chicago, for instance, it would behoove Colonel Tribune or @SunTimes to follow people who mention “Roland Burris” or “Rod Blagojevich.” If someone mentions a local issue, give them a follow. If they don’t follow back, you can always unfollow them.

- People who mention local landmarks. Highways, airports and restaurants are things that people love to Tweet about. And if they’re Tweeting from one of these places, chances are they’re bored. Give them a follow. You have nothing to lose.

- Twitter super-users, of course. For a general list of power users, try Twitterholic and Twitter Grader. (Twitter Grader also has a great local search feature; here’s the ranking for Chicago.)

- People who mention your competition. For instance, if I were to run a Twitter page for the New York Daily News, I would follow people who mention:

- The New York Times
- The New York Post
- Newsday
- Local magazines, like New York and The New Yorker
- Gothamist and a couple of other blogs
- Broadcast television and radio Twitter feeds

But there are a few things to consider before you start following lots of folks:

1. Is your profile completely filled out? If you don’t have a photo and profile description
2. Do you have a fairly solid following? If I get a random follow from a news organization that has 20 followers, guess what – I’m not following them back.
3. Do you look like a spammer? If you’re following 1,000 people but only have 100 followers, you look like a spammer. It looks like you’re on Twitter just to gain followers. And if you are, I’m not following you. A good ration is about 3:2, meaning for every three people who follow you, you should follow two back.

Here are some other things you can do to get more followers:

- Tweet content that’s relevant to your audience. This is probably the single most important thing you can do, and it’s testable. You can track the number of clicks on your URLs if you use a service like (There are others out there, but I like this one.)

- Respond to all questions, suggestions and comments. Self-explanatory.

- Evangelize Twitter. Do you know folks who aren’t already on Twitter? Tell them about it and get them to follow you.

- Re-Tweet popular Twitter users. If something Robert Scoble says is relevant to your audience, it couldn’t hurt to re-Tweet it. If anything, it may get that person to notice you.

- Pick a good time to Tweet. On Problogger, Darren Rowse suggests you Tweet during peak hours. That’s OK, but if your followers are following many other people, they may not see your messages. Use the analytics tools at your disposal to see when you get the most clicks and Twitter search to see when you get the most responses.

- Promote your efforts. It couldn’t hurt to have a contest every once in a while. People like swag. You probably have an extra t-shirt or mug around the office somewhere. Figure out a contest and make it happen.

Two final notes: Don’t necessarily choose not to follow someone based on the number of followers/Tweets they have. If you find someone’s profile, and they just joined Twitter, you have a great opportunity to bring them into your digital fold. And if you have something important to say, you may become that person’s best friend…on Twitter at least.

Also, this post may be about how to gain Twitter followers, but Twitter — and social media — is not about numbers. (To your bosses, it may be, but you’ve got to manage their expectations.) You’re much better off having 50 followers, all of whom are highly engaged, than several hundred thousand users, 90 percent of whom you ignore. Being successful in the social media space depend on how useful and personal you are.


If I didn’t convince you, try reading these other posts:

Dosh Dosh – ‘How to Get More Twitter Followers: Some Methods That Work’
Mack Collier, Search Engine Guide – ‘How Do You Get More Followers On Twitter?’


Also, I would like to thank Aaron Brazell, Whet Moser, Mark Hopkins and Rahsheen Porter for inspiring me to tweak this post’s intro a bit. This post is designed for people who already use Twitter the right way, but I did not make that clear at first. Thanks, guys.

48 comments April 15th, 2009

Topify helps you save time on Twitter

You have a stack of new Twitter followers, but not a lot of time. But you have to:

- open the e-mail
- click on the link that takes you to the person’s profile
- decide whether you want to follow them or not
- DM them, perhaps, to thank them

Over the weekend, I signed up for a service called Topify. You can get a beta invite here, but spots are limited. It’s a special SXSW offer. (If you want an invite after the SXSW window closes, go here for an invite.)

Once you sign up, you’ll be assigned a Topify e-mail address. Each new follower notification is routed through Topify, which then scrapes that person’s page, and then another e-mail is sent to your inbox. It not only tells you the person’s name, but:

- where they’re from
- the number of followers they have, along with the number of people they’re following
- their avatar, so if you don’t like following folks with MySpace kissy faces, you don’t have to
- the person’s most recent Tweets

Topify has saved me a bit of time, especially if I Tweet something that gets me a lot of new followers.

Have you discovered any other Twitter time-savers?

11 comments March 18th, 2009

BackTweets: My shiny new Twitter object

I must say, I’m a big fan of BackTweets. It’s a great way to track mentions of your site on Twitter.

Just type in the URL for your site (e.g., and, BackTweets will find folks who have linked to your page, and it even plows its way through shortened URLS, given its support.

I’m not sure it supports all URL shorteners just yet, but I’ve seen, TinyURL,,, budurl and a couple of others included.

Use this to:
- Check to see who’s linking to you; it couldn’t hurt to drop them a quick thank-you Tweet. Also, if you re-Tweet them, it won’t look like you’re pushing out content all the time. After all, they are linking to you, so it’s good to RT anyway.
- See who’s linking to your competition. Now steal them away.

What other uses do you see for BackTweets? Have you found anything better?

7 comments March 11th, 2009

New Tricks: A quick Twitter primer

All right, folks. So thanks to us — perhaps — you’ve signed up for Twitter. Here are some rules of the road:

(NOTE: You must be logged in to Twitter for this tutorial to be most effective.)

- Want to reply to someone publicly? Type “@Name” in the text box to respond. You can put the person’s name at the beginning, or you can incorporate the name in your Tweet, like this.

- Not all of your Tweets will benefit your followers, so sometimes it’s good to send a private, direct message. Here’s how you do it:
1. Once you find someone you want to DM, go to their profile page.
2. Click “Direct Message” on the right rail.
3. Send your message.

- Sometimes there’s a big story that’s either ongoing or just developing. You’ll find that savvy Twitter users will tags their Tweets to get them seen as part of the conversation. For instance, the tag for Super Bowl-related Tweets was #superbowl, for Rod Blagojevich-related stories it was #Blagojevich and for the Obama inauguration it was #inaug09. You can find hashtag trends here and on the Twitter Search main page.

- Want to follow someone? Go to their page, and click the little “Follow” button under their avatar. It’s as simple as that.

- You’ll notice that you only have 140 characters per Tweet. So, if you’re posting a link, that means you’ll have to shorten it. My personal favorite right now is It has a nifty metrics dashboard and doesn’t have some of the SEO issues of other URL shorteners. Go to, paste your long link into the box, click the button, and voilà — you have a much shorter link.

And now, for some Twitter etiquette. Or as it’s called, twetiquette. Enjoy this instructional video:

What are your tips?

15 comments February 17th, 2009

@Breakingnewson and the soda that ‘rocked’ a school

Around 2 p.m. (EST) today, an event happened at a middle school in Springfield, Mass. The details were sketchy at first, as they often are in the first few minutes.

TV station WWLP in Springfield reported that the school was evacuated, and two explosive devices were found, and one had “exploded.”

Here’s WWLP’s early Web report:

The Twitter-based news service @Breakingnewson, which has 25,000+ followers, was quick to post just after WWLP with this breathless tweet:

Just seconds after this tweet, some of @Breakingnewson’s followers started retweeting that note. Who wouldn’t? This sounds like Columbine, right? Within minutes, it had been retweeted dozens of times.

It appears that @Breakingnewson was using WWLP as its source for the original tweet. When you read WWLP’s original note, would you immediately conclude the school was “rocked” by an explosion?

Several minutes after the first post, @Breakingnewson said this:

That sounds more measured, and it shows now that @Breakingnewson was using WWLP as a source.

Only problem, I had refreshed the WWLP page a few minutes before this tweet went out. This is the story WWLP had at the time:

Exploding soda bottles and someone getting burned are nothing to laugh about, but was the school “rocked?” (It turns out the injured man had minor burns on his hand, according to WLLP).

@Breakingnewson apparently read the same report. A few minutes later, they sent this tweet:

The TV station is now reporting that two 8th-grade boys are being questioned, the school has returned to normal, and class was being dismissed at regular time today.

The lesson here?

Twitter is fast, and it is viral. News organizations on Twitter still need to use news judgment and restraint. These tweets, which were likely seen by thousands of people, are taken as fact by a lot of people.

If you’re a journalist on Twitter, be careful about what you do. Take a deep breath before you report something is “rocked” by an exploding Coke bottle.

Update (4:25 p.m. EST)

We have left an email message with @Breakingnewson asking for comment, and haven’t heard back yet. We will update this post with their point of view when we do.”

Update (11:30 a.m. EST Saturday)

I did not receive a repsonse to my email, but Michael van Poppel of @Breakingnewson has commented below.

12 comments February 13th, 2009

New Tricks: Break the Twitterfeed habit

Once you decide to put your organization on Twitter, the temptation is great to turn on Twitterfeed, which automatically puts RSS feeds into Twitter, and forget it. It’s like magic! You just have to come up with the idea of using Twitter and Twitterfeed does the rest!

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy — if you want Twitter to be useful for your organization.

Twitterfeed is a clever program. It pulls entries from RSS and posts them on Twitter with headlines or without, with links or without. You can tell it to send 1 entry every hour, 1 a day or as many as 5 every half hour.

Here’s the problem: People generally do NOT want to follow an RSS feed on Twitter, especially from a news organization. Twitter is a conversational tool. It is a personal tool. If you want to read an RSS feed, you can use Google Reader. If you want people to follow your newsroom’s account, put a person on it. A real person.

More news organizations are figuring out what Twitter is about, and are realizing that feeding an RSS feed to Twitter doesn’t work. Check out @dallas_news, @coloneltribune, @statesman, @phillyinquirer and @kxan_news for examples of what an account is like with a human voice behind them. Compare to @startribune (which didn’t use Twitterfeed, but was an RSS feed until it stopped updating two months ago).

It’s nice to see newspapers figuring out the right way to use Twitter.

The Indianapolis Star had Twitterfeed on full blast until Oct. 30, when it sent out this Tweet:

Since then, the Indy Star has been sharing links with a human touch. It makes all the difference. Twitter is free. All you’re spending by doing it the right way is work hours. Do it — you’ll like the results.

38 comments December 9th, 2008

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