Using Twitter

Love it or hate it, Twitter is an important part of the media industry.

As a media maker, you’re going to have to know how Twitter works and the best ways to use it. You don’t have to be a show-off, or argue with people. On the contrary, if you curate your account well, it can be a wonderful community of people with whom to communicate.

The best way to understand Twitter, and to learn to navigate it well, and to build that supportive Twitter community, is to use the app. Seems obvious, but if you spend time with it, and with the people you connect with, it will become a really valuable tool.

WEEK 1:

  1. If you don’t already have an account, sign up here. TIPS: Think carefully about your Twitter name – if you’re not using your own name (which is ok) does the name you’re choosing align with other online accounts (e.g. your WordPress)? I recommend having a public account, but let’s talk about it if you prefer to remain private 🙂
  2. Download the app for your phone: there are official Twitter apps for Android or iOS. There are also third-party apps that are worth trying – search for them in your relevant app store.
  3. Write a short bio, and upload an avatar/profile photo: this does not have to be a photo of you, but of course it can be, too 🙂 TIP: Your bio is often the first thing a potential follower sees about you – a tiny bit of humour or personality signal you might be cool to follow and be connected with
  4. Find or design a header photo that fits your personality. Note that this photo or illo is very wide and shallow – the size Twitter recommends is 1500px X 500px. There’s more info an designing your header taking into account the layout and “safe zone” here. TIP: Check the appearance of your profile on mobile, too!
  5. Go into Settings and set notifications to suit you: you will detest Twitter (and me!) if you receive emails every time someone even thinks about tweeting O_o
  6. Start finding people and organisations to follow. These might include media practitioners, official accounts for news organisations and radio stations, prominent people, politicians, people that have expertise or specialty in areas that fascinate you (science, art, film, etc.), and people that make you laugh.
  7. Make a note of the language used on Twitter – there is a character limit, but very few people use SMS-type abbreviations – quality tweets use correct grammar and spelling. If something needs to be said that can’t be contained in one tweet, a user will frequently start a ‘thread’.
  8. Things to explore: hashtags, mentions, lists, trending topics, muting.

WEEK 2

SOME HELPFUL LINKS:

Twitter’s guide to the basics (how to tweet and retweet, how to create a thread, mentions) and how to add content to a tweet.

A useful guide to making lists – useful for when you’re following a larger number of people, or as a way to filter out some of the noise 🙂

A good example of a thread, and how journalists and newsrooms can use them to enhance reporting.

EXERCISE:

Find a story, or a topic of some description, and compose a series of tweets into a thread.

Author: veritychambers

Journalist and teacher

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