New tricks: 10 tips for Tweeting as your news organization

January 13th, 2009

Twitter can and should be used as the official account for your news organization, much the way @statesman and @ColonelTribune represent the Austin American-Statesman and the Chicago Tribune. Here are 10 tips for Tweeting as your news organization:

1. Follow people who are following you. To be fair, a lot of media accounts miss this important point. It’s in journalists’ DNA to push information out without listening to their audience. Change that.

Colonel Tribune

2. Respond to questions, suggestions and comments. It doesn’t cost you anything but a few minutes’ worth of effort. This simple rule can relatively quickly turn your organization from a seemingly cold, uncaring institution into your audience’s trusted friend.

3. Do not use Twitterfeed. Nothing against the clever third-party vendor that pushes RSS feeds onto Twitter, it’s just that shoving your headlines out mindlessly does not make a good news Twitter account.

3. Be a one-stop shop for information. Retweet your followers’ interesting posts. Link to your competition.

4. Know your audience. Ask them if you’re Tweeting too much. Ask them if they want more. Build a quick survey and ask them to fill it out. What do they want you to Tweet more about? What should you avoid? Listen to what they say and adjust. Do your followers mostly want local news? Give it to them.

5. Trust the person or people Tweeting for your organization. Pick people who have sound news judgment and a knack for finding interesting stories. Talk to them about what you hope to accomplish. Then let them do their thing.

Austin American-Statesman on Twitter

6. Post in a conversational tone. It’s hard to get out of the “President signs bill” headline writing mode, but do it. Think of it as sharing headlines with friends – what you say if you were telling a friend via e-mail about that bill signing?”

7. There’s no real “undo” button in Twitter, and you shouldn’t have a copy editor reading each Tweet. Therefore, take a deep breath before you click the “update” button.

8. It’s not only about driving traffic to your site. You have to keep your community interested in your account or you’ll lose them. Don’ link bait — by that, I mean don’t post lame content just because you can write a clever headline that you think will draw clicks. It might work the first couple of times, but people will stop clicking on your links.

9. Check Twitter Search to see what is being said about your news organization. Jump into conversations if you can be helpful. Do not be combative though.

10. Market your efforts relentlessly. Find a place for Twitter content on your web site. Show it on your evening broadcasts (ala @ricksanchezcnn). Run house ads for your Twitter feeds. Think about hosting a Tweetup, which is basically a big party with your followers. If you’re doing this right, people will want to meet you.


As always, if you have any additional ideas or tips, please post them below!

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Entry Filed under: New Tricks

  • Mark S. Luckie

    I'd add that some Twitter newbies forget that they are tweeting for a news organization and tweet personal information, such as what they had for breakfast or the awesome book they just read. Keeping a clear, focused message that is relevant to the brand is very important for news orgs on Twitter.

  • Gina Chen

    Great list! One addition I would make — which you do touch on in point one — is to actively seek out people to follow in your niche area (if you're a reporter) even if they aren't in your geographic region.

    Twitter is most useful if you have a fair amount of followers, but don't assume people outside your coverage area won't be interested in what you have to say. So many stories and blogs resonate beyond geography. (And if they don't, change them so they will.)

    You can really expand your entry into the conversation this way and reach new readers.

  • dan360man

    Absolutely. And when it comes to news, if your audience wants the weather, give them the weather. If they're not interested in sports news, don't Tweet about it.

    Thanks for the comment, Mark. Hope to see you around again!

  • dan360man

    Absolutely. And when it comes to news, if your audience wants the weather, give them the weather. If they're not interested in sports news, don't Tweet about it.

    Thanks for the comment, Mark. Hope to see you around again!

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  • Dean Miller

    11. Find a business model for Twitter, Ning and Facebook. 'Cause so far…they're a black hole for vc money…and time.

  • Gina Chen

    Thanks. Obviously, the feeling is mutual.

  • Gina Chen


    See your point, but I do think there is value in tweeting personal information even if you work for a news organization. I think it helps readers see you as human and a person — not “the paper” — with concerns, worries, etc. just like them. Of course, you don't want to overdue it, and you do need to remember that you're representing your news organization.

    Of course, that's just my humble opinion.

  • dan360man

    I'm sorry you think that, Dean.

    Facebook sends hundreds of thousands of referrals to my sites. Twitter's gaining momentum.

    I would even argue that social bookmarking sites like Digg, Reddit, etc. don't have a revenue model that's set in stone. Still, these sites have the potential to send hundreds of thousands, if not millions of referrals to your site.

    Is this something you — and the Post-Register (assuming this is the same Dean Miller) want to ignore? Let's open this up for discussion.

  • Robert Quigley

    Echoing Daniel's thoughts, we've seen great success with Twitter and Facebook. Both are top 5 referrers for the American-Statesman. Not only are a lot of people coming to our sites from these services, but most of them are new unique visitors who we probably never would have reached otherwise.

    Beyond page views, we get great feedback from readers, who say their image of our brand has changed. On top of that, I get great news tips regularly and user-submitted pictures and videos.

    The social media sites do need to figure out their business models, but that doesn't mean we in the media should ignore them. If Twitter fails, someone else will rise up. Meanwhile, I have a community of more than 3,300 people who would likely follow us to the next service.

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  • chupchap

    An interesting post there, most of the stuff you mentioned is already being done by a newspaper in India
    Do, check them out

  • dan360man

    Very cool. Always good to see folks from abroad using Web 2.0 technology! Are they doing anything else?

  • chupchap

    They did make profile in friendfeed too. But they are just broadcasting there. No interactions, friendfeed is too time consuming I guess!

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  • Crashy

    I am sorry, but I can not understand an idea “1. Follow people who are following you.” – Why? What for?

  • Robert Quigley

    Two reasons:

    * So people can DM you (you can't DM unless you both follow each other). People are more open in DMs compared to when in public.

    * Because that's how Twitter works. When you have a personal account, you generally follow back people who follow you so you can read their posts and so you can show you're being interactive. You're not going to read every post once you're over a certain number, but I like to skim in and read when I log in. I get a lot of good info from my followers that I can retweet.

    Admittedly, part of it is ego. People like to be followed back. There are a few exceptions where people and businesses don't follow people back, but those are usually people or businesses that have a ton of name or brand recognition (ala @NYTimes, @lancearmstrong and @CNN).

    This is our best advice. The vast majority of news organizations that don't follow anyone back also have few people following them.

  • Dr Wright

    The biggest mistake organizations make with twitter is that they just push out information. There is no real interaction with the followers. That is where the real treasure is in Twitter.

    Dr. Wright
    The Wight Place TV Show 1

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