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Social Media 101: How to Use Twitter, Part 3

1 Apr

Josh Cheesman
@JoshCheesman

So, here we are once again for the third and final chapter in our Twitter odyssey. Having covered the basic philosophy of tweeting, here are a last few tips to help you rise above the rest of the Twitterati.

Part 1
Part 2

VAT – Value Added Tweeting

Investor and author Tim Ferriss wrote a blog post about using Twitter without letting it dominate you. The advice is sound, but mostly along a different track to these articles (the focus is on being able to manage your time on Twitter rather than the substance of your actual tweets).

However, Ferriss does make a good point with the fourth tenet of his creed (“fourth tenet of his creed”? Why am I speaking like a Biblical prophet?):

“Don’t post unless you add more value than the attention you consume (both yours and others).”

Moses

To be fair, these kinds of things would sound cooler coming from Biblical prophets.

 Basically, this kind of leads back to parts 1 and 2. If you expect someone to read you tweets, you have to make it worth their while. Ferriss gives three examples of how to do this:

  1. “Add value if you consume attention.” As I said in part 1, no one wants to know about the mundane details of your boring life. But if you can add something of use your tweeting becomes much more valuable. Ferriss gives the example of providing the address of the restaurant where you got a great burrito instead of just saying you had a nice meal. But you can look at this in the context of journalism as well – don’t just say something like “David Cameron doesn’t know what he’s talking about”, add a statistic or something to prove it. Don’t just blog that violence is kicking off at a protest, tell people on what street it’s happening.
  2. “Use the tool for its best purposes and ignore the rest.” Put simply, use Twitter for what it’s good at – publicising small bits of information to a wide audience. Don’t try and use it to make a lengthy argument about economic policy – write a blog post (which you can of course link to on Twitter). Don’t try and use it to co-ordinate an article you’re writing with a small group of colleagues – start a Facebook group.
  3. “Linking is fundamental to adding value.” Why bother making several tweets covering all the interesting things in an online article when you can just link to that article? Linking not only makes people curious as to where the link goes (as Ferriss says), but for journalists it serves another crucial purpose: it allows you to back up the 100 character statement you’ve just made.

 If you’re taking up space on someone’s feed and not providing any value, don’t be surprised if they decide to stop following you.

Think Beyond Yourself

Another good article is Nate Whitehall’s Top 5 Ways NOT to Use Twitter. Essentially, most of Whitehall’s points come to down to one thing – don’t think about what you want to say, think about what you’re saying to everyone else.

So don’t constantly promote your own articles, promote ones from other people as well. Pose questions, respond to other people’s tweets. Not only will this be more interesting to your followers, it will help you build social capital.

Also, Whitehall advises thinking beyond just saying what’s happening where you are, and posting a picture on TwitPic. Yes, it’s terribly cliché, but a picture paints a thousand words. That’s really something you should utilise when you’ve only got 140 characters to work with. Allow your followers to engage more with your situation.

Final Advice

So this is the end of our little miniseries on producing better tweets. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and to finish off, here’s a final thought about using Twitter. If you take nothing else away from these articles, take this.

Just before you tweet, read back what you’ve said (this won’t take you long), and just think: “would this interest me if someone else posted it?”

(And if you only see one movie this year… you’ve got to get out more often.)

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Social Media 101: How to Use Twitter, Part 2

26 Mar

Josh Cheesman
@JoshCheesman

Greetings faithful social medions (I have no idea why I just came up with that phrase, so don’t ask me), and welcome back to the (somewhat belated) second part of our guide to using Twitter in a cleverer fashion and not like, well, a twit.

Part 1

So in the last article, I said that if you want to be a proficient tweeter (or twitterer, or twerp, or whatever), you have to talk about something other than yourself. But what? Well, that’s what I’m going to cover today.

It’s all about USP

Mark: You’ve brought a snake?
Super Hans: Yeah. All these young spunks swarming about, you need a USP to gain a market share.
Peep Show, Episode 6.5

USP stands for Unique Selling Point. It’s a concept that comes up a lot in our Online Journalism courses, and one that I personally feel should be the core mantra of any blogger, and by extension, any micro-blogger.

Manta ray

I said "blogger's mantra", not "blogger's manta".

But “Unique Selling Point” sounds like business speak. What does it actually mean?

In a nutshell, USP can be summed up as: “What can I get from you then I can’t get anywhere else?”

You can’t just write a sports blog and copy all your content for the BBC sport site. Why would anyone read it? Why wouldn’t they just go straight to the BBC site themselves, which at the very least will have the advantage that they’ll have all the news up before you?

You wouldn’t do that. You’d add your unique insight  – funny, interesting, intelligent, heck, even just plain old obnoxious – to the stories. Or amalgamate news from several different sites. Or use your own contacts to get stories before anybody else.

But even that isn’t necessarily enough. Put simply, you have to be the best at what you do. You have to be, otherwise why would anyone be interested in reading your sports blog above every other one on the web?

And what’s the easiest way of being the best at what you do? Do something that no one else does. The thing that you do that no one else does is your USP.

USP Your Tweets to the Max

So as you might have guessed from the above header, this principle applies even to Twitter. You hear something, and you want to share it, but before you do, go through the following steps in your head:

  1. Is this story totally unreported?
  2. Do you have any new information about the story?
  3. Do you have an interesting thought to offer? Some facet that no one else has considered?
  4. Do you have a new quote from someone connected to the story?
  5. Do you have something funny to say about the situation?
The Chewbaccalaureate

What you find funny may vary from everyone else.

If you’ve gone through every one of those questions and the answer is “no” to every one, then, well, don’t bother tweeting it.

What should you do instead? Simple: retweet! Retweet!

Read Part 3 here.

You and Social Media: How Young Journalists Use Social Media (now with videos!)

25 Feb

Josh Cheesman
@JoshCheesman

Before Christmas, I made some very quick videos of some of our classmates on the TV journalism master’s course at City Uni. I asked them to talk about how they, as young up-and-coming journalists, use social media. Here are the results:

Linguistic Chinese whispers – the dangers of cross-national news sharing on social media

4 Feb

Ben Miller

@ben_at_city

“If you’ve ever played ‘Chinese whispers’, what comes out the end is usually gibberish, and more or less when we speak to each other we’re playing this massive game of Chinese whispers”.

This is evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel’s summary of informative change – a phenomenon that affects conversational syntax and lexicology between speakers of different mother tongues.

The process of lexical morphology – en vrac the sharing of information – is being constantly sped up by the modern-day ease in which people from all corners of the Earth interact with each other. The main vessels that have facilitated this over the last decade all come under one collective name – social media.

In terms of journalism, then, this can prove extremely hazardous. 85% of read and reported news in the UK comes from abroad, and popular knowledge of news and current affairs is often spread by word of mouth (well, more appropriately ‘word of keyboard’ in this case!) between ordinary members of the public. And given that over 70% of Britons under the age of 25 have at least one account on a social media site, there is an enormous amount of news-related cyber gossip going on – a transfer of information that has increased 30-fold since the year 2000.

Lots of Facebook, MySpace and Bebo users have, in these days of easy travel, media globalisation and multiculturalism accumulated swathes of friends and contacts abroad. The inhabitants of all the politically free countries of the world are permitted to access each others news sources and media agency websites. This leads people to interpret news stories in other languages, which naturally has a tendecy to lead to fundamental errors in perception.

The problem with English being such a globally important language is that most of the world tries to read, listen and watch Anglophone publications and broadcasts. If a certain key fact or sentence is misunderstood, then the wrong information can spread indefinitely as the topic is discussed with others.

One ideal example is found in a Facebook message sent to me by a friend in France. On hearing the news of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement from a BBC emission, my friend’s somewhat limited English led her to believe that the couple had in fact got married, apparently in secret without anyone finding out! It is easy to imagine the confusion that might arise amongst her other Facebook contacts if she had then ‘published’ her error without being corrected.

The global rise of Twitter (which is yet to claim the social network crown from Facebook but has done a seriously good job of clawing its way up from the depths of cyber obscurity over the last 18 months), is a playing field that only accentuates the dangers of linguistic misinterpretation. The extreme informality of publishing your thoughts and a clear emphasis on news (as opposed to Facebook’s greater range of features) means that Twitter is a danger-zone potentially rife with inaccuracy. People read alien languages, they misunderstand, they perceive incorrectly, and they tweet their response. This is a danger not only for unrelated tongues, but also for the mutually intelligible. Speakers of Spanish notoriously misinterpret Portuguese, lulled into a sense of security by the two languages’ similarity and unaware of the prominence of ‘false friends’ – words or phrases that appear very similar but actually have a completely different meaning.

In short, linguistic Chinese whispers are impossible to moniter or control in the online environment. The only thing that assures that popular error doesn’t become widespread journalistic disaster is the enormous number of news sources and the benefits of modern globalisation – any newsworthy piece of information that happens anywhere on the Planet can be instantly exported (and translated) for any audience.