Yeah, yeah I know. This is old news.
With the talk amongst media gurus, like the eternally likable and charismatic Jeff Jarvis (creator of the very insightful Buzzmachine.com), about the rise of “hyperlocal news-streams“, there is going to be a lot of fear amongst incumbent journos.
Will I be left behind?
Will Bob blogger trump my latest scoop?
And the answer is – I have no idea, we’re just a bunch of average Gits here, chewing the proverbial and shooting the breeze. But in my heart of hearts I hope not. There’s no substitute for reading the news as told by true storytellers. People with the power of prose. It adds credibility. It’s why I buy the paper. I’m sure as heck not going to part with my hard-earned to watch or read content created by a bogan with a camcorder. Content will always be king – but the journos and writers must move with the times and learn to use the tools of their trade.
That’s where Twitter forms an essential weapon in the scribesperson’s arsenal.
Instead of seeing Twitter as a way of notifying people of your water closet habits journos should be doing “The Top Ten Twitter Things For Learning Things”.
- Create that Twitter account (of course you say!).
- Decide whether or not to create a second account under a nom de plume. Top secret undercovery stuff.
- Get to know the Twitter jargon. @ vs # vs DM. These will change the way people find you and how they’ll respond.
- Learn some brevity – even if you feel like you’re betraying the grammar gods. 140 characters maximum per Tweet.
- Know your URL shortening services. 3 good ones are Bit.ly, Ow.ly, and Tinyurl. If you need to add a big web address to a Tweet you soon find the 140 character limit disappearing. Plug a URL like http://gitweekly.tumblr.com/ into the Ow.ly service and you get: http://ow.ly/1qByy. Both links go to the GITweekly Tumblr site but the shortened address just saved you 10 characters.
- As a bonus for using services like Bit.ly and Ow.ly you can get some stats about who clicked on the link and where they’re from. Sign up with their service and reap the statistical rewards.
- Find a Twitter client that suits you. My personal fav (at the mo) is Hootsuite. Hootsuite incorporates Ow.ly as its URL shortener (including a tab for looking into your stats). Hootsuite allows you to keep track of multiple Twitter accounts as well as the ubiquitous Facebook accounts. What makes this site amazing is the ease to which you can add columns for searches, lists and direct messages (plus a load more). It really is the bees knees for journo research. Tweetdeck has a standalone Adobe Air desktop app worth looking at too.
- Grab the smartphone version of your chosen Twitter client for Tweetling on the go. I paid a couple of hard earned denari for the Hootsuite iPhone app and it’s great. Try their lite/free version too. Tweetdeck makes an appearance in the App Store too.
- Set up your searches: Learn some simple boolean search skills (using ANDs and ORs) to drill down to the topics you’re looking for. Real-time search is becoming vital – real time searching could have you breaking stories as fast as the hyperlocal bloggers,
- Most importantly set up your lists. Add important movers and shakers into different lists. This way your main Twitter stream won’t get inundated with chatter from everyone. For each story you’re investigating create a list. Simple and convenient.
But the main thing is to not put your head in the sand. Give it a go.
By using “new media” social networking tools like Twitter you may open yourself up to new contacts, folks with a story to tell, and as a side effect – the work may come to you.
Stay in front peoples. Don’t let these rapscallion bloggers and hyperlocal newsies take over the turf you’ve worked long and hard to cultivate.