social media

3 top tweeting tips for student journalists

Social media has become, in the span of a few short years, an essential part of the future of journalism. It has become, for today’s journalism student, a necessity.

Social media has become, in the span of a few short years, an essential part of the future of journalism. It has become, for today’s journalism student, a necessity. Engagement on platforms is crucial as audience tastes shift to the web, not just to communicate, but also stay informed on the news.

This is especially in the case of Twitter, which is influencing journalism moving forward, and for those whose goal is to get into the industry, being on the social network has become quintessential. Yet, with Twitter, you’ve got to practice a fine line, or it could come back to haunt you later.

Therefore, here are three tips to get you going and to help make the most of Twitter:

Be interactive and engaging

There are millions of users out there who have similar interests to you or are keen in following your work based on the subjects you cover. But in order to get out there, you’ve got to engage and interact with your audience. Develop your craft and what you cover, and one of the best ways to interact is to follow.

Miranda Sawyer, journalist and radio critic for The Observer, suggested this.

Indeed, the more people you follow, the more engagement you can have with those of similar interests of yours, or who want to learn more about the subjects you cover. (You could also find possible sources for stories this way too should you need.)

For example, I write a lot for Kettle about media and social media trends. If I tweet about those beats and any developments, that would attract other people who would be interested in those subjects to follow to learn more about my work.

Additionally, hashtags are also useful in engaging wider audiences, especially if you’re looking for sources.

For example:

Twitter is a great environment, but it can only be a great environment if you use it right.

Be sure the facts are right

While there are many benefits to journalism on social media, there are a couple of incidents which makes things a bit tricky. The ultimate goal is to be first, but it is always often better to be right rather than be first. Stories like the conflict in Ukraine or indeed a political or celebrity story in the UK spur a lot of conversation, and because of that, there are items posted that could have wrong information, and throw you for a loop.

If you see something second hand, verify it. Make that phone call.

Additionally, government ministers, agencies and other organisations have official accounts that are usually verified (e.g. Number 10). Monitoring those may also come in handy when putting a story together.

You may be delayed in getting the story out there, but it is better to be posting the right information, rather than the wrong information.

Be careful what you say

Twitter is also used to convey opinion, some of which may be controversial. This is especially where the fine line needs to be made. In addition to informing, Twitter has become a networking tool with journalists, presenters, authors, anyone in the industry. Whatever you say on a certain topic may land you into trouble come the time you’re on a hunt for a job.

The words “Views are my own” are helpful to put in your bio, to ensure that the opinions you have are not associated with the work you do. Adding “RTs [retweets] are not an endorsement” may also be helpful.

But, don’t go too far, especially if your comment is on something controversial. My colleague, Kettle’s technology editor Matt Jackson, had this advice.

Additionally, when approaching a source for an interview, try to describe the request in the 140 character limit. Mention the publication you’re with and try to describe the topic. If however it is on a negative story (i.e. death or shooting) and you’re trying to get someone close to the story, express caution with your language. One wrong word may land you into trouble.

Twitter has changed social media and indeed journalism in so many ways, but with the 3 starting tips, you’ll be on your way.

What would you add to this list? Who would be a journalist you follow on Twitter that you would recommend for others? Have your say in the comments section below, or you can tweet us @KettleMag.