student life

Twitter: Top tweeting tips for journalism students

In the nearly ten years it has been in existence, Twitter has become a must use platform for all in the media industry.

In the nearly ten years it has been in existence, Twitter has become a must use platform for all in the media industry. While stories can break on Twitter instantly and interview requests can be made quicker, there is still a debate on the best ways to use Twitter. For student journalists, a profile on the social networking site is becoming essential, in an environment where many a platform has affected the future of news.

Sarah Marshall, social media editor, EMEA, for The Wall Street Journal, said Twitter had taken off in news particularly in 2009, with the Gaza attack and the events of the Arab Spring, which took place notably in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya.

“The news industry realised that people were sharing news because they wanted to be heard,” Marshall said. “At a time from a world news perspective, Twitter was a lifeline to news.”

Need a contact? Go to Twitter, that’s that!

For Camilla Tominey, the Royal Editor of the Sunday Express, says the progression to Twitter had been natural from blogs and comments from articles online, and from a journalistic standpoint, it has become the ultimate wire service, particularly in the case of covering the Royal Family.

“It has added an urgency to getting information out there that wasn’t there before because ultimately people would have to wait for the evening news or the next morning’s papers/magazines for the latest royal stories/photos whereas now they are on Twitter before anywhere else,” Tominey said. “It has also enabled ordinary punters to act as citizen journalists, which has resulted in more photographs and footage of Royals out and about (and indeed naked in Las Vegas hotel rooms) making it online.”

Yet, despite instant news, the expectations of it being used as a way of securing contacts and interviews, in the case of students, was not widely known, says Sian Elvin, Kettle’s social media editor.

“The use of the #journorequest hash tag makes it so much easier for journalists to find exactly what they’re looking for with much less effort than before,” Elvin said.

Tips and advice

For student journalists, Elvin says, Twitter has now become a part of your portfolio.

“If you’re a journalism student and don’t have Twitter, you are almost deemed a “failure” by your peers as that’s not only the best way to access instant breaking news, find new stories and make contacts, but also how you share your articles online and get them out into the world,” Elvin said.

Marshall adds that it can count against you if you don’t use Twitter, which allows you many opportunities whilst you’re getting your degree. You can find your niche and build your expertise as well as your following.  

Marshall says to take the time to find interesting people on Twitter. The more you can do to connect with people you respect or mention people in tweets, Marshall says, the more of a following you can get.

“If you don’t find them, you won’t come back to Twitter every day,” Marshall said. “This can be your opportunity, your ticket to your first job. I may have been a little nervous to jump on, but seize it. The more people do it and make those connections, a huge opportunity [can come] and can make your career out of it. Take the time and find those interesting people.”

‘Get it right’

Elvin says with Twitter becoming part of your portfolio, you need to do the work to prove it.

“You need to respond to breaking news and big stories to show that you’re engaging with the bigger picture and important public affairs,” Elvin said. “You need to use it to make contacts. However, although you must ensure you keep it professional, don’t forget to inject anecdotes from your everyday life in there so it doesn’t become stale.”

Yet, the most important rule of all, Tominey says, is one that all journalists should follow—accuracy.

“For the love of God get it right before you put it out,” Tominey said. “There’s no point getting it out there first if you’ve got it wrong – it just makes you look stupid. Just because it’s online in a stream of comments doesn’t mean it will disappear into the ether. The stuff you write online will come back to haunt you.”

Tominey says also to consider what you tweet.

“If you’re going to Tweet personally, have a different account to your “professional” Twitter account,” Tominey said. “At the end of the day people are following me because they’re interested in the Royals, not whether my 10 month old has just cut a new tooth.”

It is clear Twitter will have an effect on the future of the industry, especially for aspiring journalists, but with these tips in mind, you can tweet your way to success, and not to complete and utter failure.

Editor’s note: This article was amended on 25 July 2014 to correct the following: Sarah Marshall is social media editor, EMEA, for The Wall Street Journal. We apologise for the error.

What do you think? What advice would you add? Have your say in the comments section below.