Archive for the ‘#twutorial series’ Category

For much of my first five or six years on Twitter, I tried to convince other journalists of its value. I’d assure them that you didn’t have to tweet about what you had for breakfast and that it really helps you find sources, report stories, etc. I’ve pretty much stopped doing that.

If you’re a journalist not using Twitter in 2014, you’ve chosen to be less skilled, less relevant, less visible and less connected. That’s your choice and I no longer care much about changing your mind. I can think of a few times in the last month that I’ve encountered journalists who were defiantly resisting use of Twitter and I just smiled, if I acknowledged their defiance at all.

But here’s one last try: You might get fired at any time. Every journalist knows that, especially these days. When you get fired, Twitter is an incredible source of encouragement and even job leads.

I’ve been fired twice in my career: in 1992 when I was editor of the Minot Daily News and Wednesday when Digital First Media announced that it was shutting Thunderdome and told me my job would end on July 1.

I had support from friends, family and colleagues in 1992, but it was one of the worst days of my career.  Wednesday was another difficult day. But it was still one of the best days of my career. I will always remember it fondly for the warm embrace of friends, especially on Twitter. (more…)

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I led a workshop at the American Copy Editors Society on how Twitter can be useful for copy editors. (No, I did not ask them to stand and sing, contrary to the appearance of the photo above.)

I made points covered in these previous #twutorial posts:

Step one for using Twitter as a reporter: Master advanced search

Hashtags help journalists find relevant tweets and reach more people

Hashtags considered #harmful by Daniel Victor

@bydanielvictor challenges the overuse of #hashtags

Use lists, TweetDeck, HootSuite, saved searches, alerts to organize Twitter’s chaos

How to verify information from tweets: Check it out

Ben Garvin’s advice: Illustrate your tweets

Updated Twitter time management tips

If a tweet looks too good to be true, grab a screenshot NOW

I probably make other points used elsewhere in my #twutorial series.

I also discussed curation.

Here are the slides for my workshop, followed by some tweets from workshop attendees (I may update later with more tweets):

That’s a tip from Andy Carvin, by the way.

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Thanks to conservative Texas Republican State Sen. Dan Patrick for this illustration of why you should edit tweets with rigor:

Here’s what Patrick meant to tweet:

If you go to the original tweet now, though, here’s what you see: (more…)

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About halfway into my #twutorial series, I realized I needed a better table of contents.

The point of the series is to help journalists use Twitter effectively to do better journalism, and how I steered people from one post to others was with a growing list of previous posts at the end of each post, mostly in reverse chronological order. For a while, I’ve been meaning to organize the links by topic, to be more helpful for journalists seeking help with using Twitter.

Thanks to Suzi Steffen for giving me the nudge in this recent exchange of tweets:

So here’s an index to my #twutorial posts, organized by topics (with some appearing more than once if I think they would fit multiple places; the one on search will show up several places). I’ll update periodically with posts from other journalists that I think are similarly helpful as well as with my own posts. I am the author of all posts listed here, unless I mention another author.


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I am leading some workshops for the Southern Regional Press Institute at Savannah State University today. 

I participated in a panel discussion on “Ethics, Urgency and Accuracy” this morning.

Here are some links relating to ethics, urgency and accuracy (I made some of the points you’ll see in these links).

How to verify information from tweets: Check it out

Suggestions for new guiding principles for the journalist

My version of Craig Silverman’s accuracy checklist

The Verification Handbook is now available

I led a morning workshop on using Twitter to cover breaking news. In addition to the links above, this workshop covered information from these workshops:

Denver Post staffers’ #theatershooting coverage demonstrates Twitter breaking news techniques

You don’t tip competitors on Twitter; you beat them

Twitter is an essential reporting tool

Here are my slides for that workshop (I developed them knowing we weren’t likely to cover all the topics. We covered the first three and skipped to verification):

I developed these slides to use in either the panel discussion or the breaking-news workshop. I ended up using them to wrap up the breaking-news workshop:

I also will lead an afternoon workshop on showcasing your work and your skills in a digital portfolio. This workshop is based primarily on this blog post:

Use digital tools to showcase your career and your work

The workshop also will cover points made in some of these posts:

Your digital profile tells people a lot

Randi Shaffer shows a reason to use Twitter: It can help land your first job

Elevate your journalism career

Tips on landing your next job in digital journalism

Job-hunting advice for journalists selling skills in the digital market

Here are my slides for that workshop:

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I’m presenting a workshop on social media this afternoon for the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association, meeting in Calgary.

Links related to the workshop are my #twutorial series, especially the posts on breaking news, advanced search and livetweeting. We’ll also be talking about crowdsourcing and Facebook engagement, including the use of photos from your archives.

Here are slides for the presentation:

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When it comes to generating traffic for your content, your number of social-media followers isn’t as important as how well you engage them.

Success lies not just in getting your social-media audience to click on the links you post, but in getting them to share the link with their friends and start a chain reaction of engagement.

I had essentially the same number of Twitter followers (15,000+) and Facebook fans and friends (almost 2,000) when I posted my Dec. 19 post about granting confidentiality to sources as when I posted last Saturday about whether to avoid tweets that might tip competitors about breaking news or events you’re covering.

Only 127 people have read the post on confidential sources, which I regard as at least as important for journalists to read. But more than 6,000 people have read the post on tweets and competition. In one week, that post got more views than anything I’ve posted in the past year.

It’s reasonable to think that as many of my social media followers saw my initial tweets and Facebook updates on the two posts. In fact, most of my followers are journalists, who might have been less likely to see the Saturday tweet and update because they weren’t working that day.

The difference: My tweeps started a chain reaction of discussion and links about the post on competition and Twitter. They reached thousands of people who don’t follow me and brought those people to my blog.

At least four factors are at play in the difference between the two stories: (more…)

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When Jen Westphal shared the email below with me, I quickly asked Jen and Ben Garvin, who wrote the email, if I could use it as a guest post. Ben’s Twitter bio describes him as a “Multimedia producer, photographer, photo editor, blogger at St. Paul Pioneer Press.”

I did a little editing and added some links and embeds to make this part of my #twutorial series. So here’s Ben’s advice on using photos with tweets (with tweets from Ben interspersed between the paragraphs):

In late October Twitter changed the way it shows images within your stream–images now automatically appear if they are tweeted from Twitter itself, not a third-party app. This small change has allowed for images to have much more impact and is something I think we all should be taking more advantage of!

Before you hit send on a tweet, ask yourself–what can I illustrate this with? A staff photo, a mugshot, a map, a screenshot of a website or headline, scene of a crime, even a selfie? Anything and everything is game. By attaching an image — any image — you immediately give your tweet a certain visual importance that will increase its reach. You will get more retweets, favorites and followers and slowly help the Pioneer Press TAKE OVER THE WORLD. (more…)

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My weekend post on why reporters shouldn’t worry about tipping the competition when they use Twitter generated at least two lively discussions:

Dan Kennedy asked whether it’s better to livetweet or liveblog. That launched a lively discussion among Dan, Malcolm Coles, Maureen Boyle, Matt DeRienzo and other (that also got into some business issues):

Dan Storified that discussion.

In another discussion, Dan Gillmor cautioned that when we tweet news on Twitter, we help Twitter more than we help our own company. That led to a vigorous discussion among Dan, Raju Narisetti, Steffen Konrath, Jim Dalrymple II and others. (It was a little challenging to keep up with and participate in both conversations at the same time.) (more…)

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You can’t get scooped because competition gets tipped to a story when you tweet about it. Your tweets already scooped the competition.

A Digital First engagement editor who’s been teaching colleagues how to use Twitter got these questions from a veteran reporter:

Thank you for helping me understand Twitter and how to use it. What I don’t get is: If we tweet where we are and what we’re doing, how do we keep the competition from making a few phone calls on a story we sat through a meeting to sift out and develop? Or they’re not at the fire, but I’m tweeting and now they know.

And if I give results on Twitter, why would they buy a paper to see the results of the game?

I thought Twitter was to draw readers to our paper. So this is a struggle.

This is classic print-centric thinking. The newspaper has an early print deadline so “they’ve been scooped a lot,” the engagement editor told me. In this kind of thinking, scoops are based on who has the print story first.

That’s not how Digital First journalists and newsrooms think. If we had the story first, we had the scoop. And you have the story first if you have it on Twitter and/or on your website.  (more…)

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I have long said that Twitter’s excellent advanced search is one of the most valuable tools for journalists today.

It is the superiority of Twitter’s search that makes it a more useful tool than Facebook for journalists, in my view, despite the fact that far more people use Facebook.

Well, Twitter search just got waaaay better with the development of twXplorer. Read Rich Gordon’s piece about twXplorer, then do some searches. I’ve just played with it a little and I’m really pleased and amazed.

What twXplorer does is analyze the results of a Twitter search and give you not just the tweets from a search but also patterns in those tweets: the terms, hashtags and links that show up most often in your search. And each of those terms, hashtags and links is hyperlinked, so you can click on it to filter just those tweets from your original search. You can also use it to search within a Twitter list.

It’s a great tool for refining searches and drilling down to find the most useful results. (more…)

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Some journalists who are strongly active on Twitter reach a ceiling on how many people you can follow.

The ceiling is a response to spammers, who used to follow people endlessly, but it’s ridiculous that Twitter hasn’t developed a way to waive the ceiling for valid users. More later on this frustration (including a weak response from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo last month).

But first, a #twutorial explanation of how the ceiling works and what you can do if you bump against it:

What the ceiling is

Any Twitter user can follow up to 2,000 other Twitter accounts without restriction. Once you hit 2,000, the number you can follow depends on how many people can follow you. The ceiling doesn’t limit me. Since I have 14K followers, I have been able to follow more than 3K without limit. Where you run into trouble is if you’re following more people than follow you.

The limit seems to be somewhere around 80 percent, though it’s not consistent. So, if you’re following 2,000 people but have fewer than 1,600 followers, you’ve probably hit the ceiling. But the ceiling doesn’t automatically come off as you go over 1,600. Once it comes into effect, it’s kind of a mystery how it works.

Chad Selweski, a political reporter at the Macomb Daily (follow him, please), wrote me about the problem earlier this year:

I was told that, beyond 2,000, you need followers that are at least 80 percent of the number you are following. I am beyond that 80 percent mark and I’m still banned from following anyone.

I asked Chad for an update this week:

My ceiling comes and goes. Very odd. The hard-and-fast ceiling that I talked to you about in the past – 2,000 followings — disappeared sometime in April or May.

This morning, after receiving your email, I added 12 followings and never received the dreaded pop-up message from Twitter that said I had exceeded my limit. That’s a good day in Twitterland.

My current ratio is: following 2,117, followed by 1,929. So, nearly 50-50.

Another Digital First journalist who’s hit the limit, Buffy Andrews (follow her, please), explained how frustrating the ceiling is:

Not being able to follow more people has been problematic in many ways.

Even though my followers continue to increase month over month, I cannot get past the ceiling. …

Since I do a lot of digital content marketing, my need to broaden my base is essential to building relationships and connecting with people from various fields. How am I supposed to build and nurture relationships if I’m prevented from establishing these relationships?

Plus, it seems that if I could follow more people I’d be able to grow my followers even faster. But I’ve been stuck at the ceiling forever, and I feel like it is preventing me from doing my job to the best of my ability. We know that Twitter is all about connecting, but I am being held back from making connections that could help me promote and share the great content we produce.

Bottom line, I need Twitter to lift the ceiling so that I can do my job. It is holding me back and I’ve been very frustrated by the lack of response to what I see is a real problem.

What to do

Unfollow some people. Use Friend or Follow or Just Unfollow to identify people you follow who aren’t following you back. Some of them might be important to follow, so you still want to follow them. Don’t unfollow people you recognize as those you’ve had meaningful conversations with or those who share links you find helpful. But some of those people may not be very active or otherwise aren’t a meaningful part of your timeline, even though they count against the ceiling.

Maybe you followed someone in the community, hoping they would follow you back, but they didn’t and they tweet about matters that are trivial to you rather than about community events and issues.

Unfollowing people has been helpful to Chad:

To give myself some extra space, I did weed out some of my lame followings from my early days getting started on Twitter. But my addition of followings comes in bursts.

Caution: Twitter’s rules don’t allow you to regularly follow and unfollow many accounts at a time. Odd that one Twitter rule might force some people into violating another rule. But I think if you unfollow and follow a handful at a time you should be fine.

Use lists to “follow” without following. You can make lists of Twitter users that you can follow in a column on TweetDeck or HootSuite or by clicking on the list from Twitter.com or a mobile app. These users’ tweets don’t show up on your timeline and they can’t direct-message you because you’re not following them. But you can pretty easily keep tabs on their tweets.

What you could do is identify a type of users whose tweets you want to monitor but with whom you’re unlikely to exchange direct messages and put them on a list but unfollow them (you can’t DM someone who isn’t following you, so they wouldn’t be able to DM you). You would need to check the list frequently, but you wouldn’t technically follow those tweets.

If you follow some national political, entertainment or sports figures, they are unlikely to DM you (unless you cover them, perhaps), and you could put them on a list.

Update: Steve Saldivar, social media coordinator at The Getty, added this advice on Facebook: “I would recommend listing organizations (and not people). The former tend to never DM.” What other advice would you suggest?

Twitter is no help

OK, here we move from providing advice on using Twitter to complaining about the company. My dealings with Twitter illustrate how cavalier the company is, from the CEO down, in terms of user service.

Most of my requests for help from Twitter have been met with silence or brush-offs. (Two exceptions: I had a nice lunch with Mark S. Luckie when he became Twitter’s manager of journalism and news about a year ago; and Erica Anderson helped me get whitelisted so I could tweet without limits during the Online News Association lightning round for board candidates last year, a few months after hitting Twitter’s hourly tweet limit during the American Society of News Editors convention.)

I think I asked about the follower limit in 2011 or 2012 on behalf of a Digital First colleague and was ignored. Optimistic that things would be better under Luckie, I emailed him earlier this year, asking for help with Chad.

Mark replied on Jan. 10 by carboning “Tyler Pilgrim from our User Services team who can help you get an answer.”

Pilgrim’s answer, also Jan. 10, was pretty much a raised middle finger:

Every user can follow 2000 people total. Once you’ve followed 2000 users, there are limits to the number of additional users you can follow: this limit is different for every user and is based on your ratio of followers to following. You’ll need to wait until you have more followers in order to follow more users—basically, you can’t follow 10,000 people if only 100 people follow you. Unfortunately, we are unable to change this limit.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

The words I italicized above are simply not true. Twitter works how Twitter engineers have designed it to work. They are able to change the limit just as they were able to impose the limit and to design it to work the way that it works. A ratio of 2-1 would stop the spammers without inhibiting legitimate users nearly as severely as the current limit.

Twitter engineers also developed a way to whitelist some users to exempt them from the limit on how often you can tweet. I’m pretty sure the same engineers are able to waive this limitation. But Twitter chooses not to.

My Jan. 10 reply to Pilgrim:

Chad has 1,662 followers and follows 2,001. Surely your ratio is not 1.2:1? That doesn’t make any sense. Why in the world would you want to limit the Twitter use of someone with that many followers?

Despite his invitation to let him know if I had other questions, he never answered that question or answered the email at all. So I emailed Pilgrim, Luckie and Anderson Jan. 18:

I never got a response to this message. Can we get this fixed? If it’s your policy to limit Twitter use by journalists with this kind of ratio, that policy makes no sense. If it’s not your policy, this is a glitch that should be fixed. We’d like to get Chad freed up to follow people again.

Luckie was a guest Jan. 30 for one of our first Inside Thunderdome live chats. I asked the question there, but it wasn’t approved for addressing in the chat because Mark said he’d address it privately. So after the chat I sent him a private email, saying:

I just can’t believe that Twitter can’t lift the following limitation for a professional journalist with 85 percent as many followers as he follows. And I’m really disappointed with never getting a response to my questions from Tyler.

I got no response to that, nor to a brief Feb. 6 email to Mark, reminding him of my request. So I wrote a longer message Feb. 7, mentioning Buffy as well:

For crying out loud, both of these people have more than 80 percent as many followers as they follow. I think your limits aren’t working. What is the “ratio” Tyler referred to? Is it really higher than 80 percent? What sense does that make? Do you really want to limit people this active from using Twitter fully? Aren’t you supposed to be the advocate for journalists? This isn’t how Twitter should work. If we can’t get a better response on this, I’m going to have to blog about how pointless this limit is and how disappointing Twitter’s response has been. To wait this long to get blown off like this is really disappointing.

Again, no response.

Anderson also blew me off on another matter (about which Luckie had referred me to her) around the same time frame. Though I had carboned her on this issue, I never addressed it directly with her. I planned to raise it with her on the phone when we discussed the other issue. But she never replied to multiple emails asking to discuss the other issue with her.

I took another shot last month when Costolo, Twitter’s top executive, was a luncheon speaker at the American Society of News Editors conference. When Costolo was taking answers from the floor, I asked him about the follower limit and Twitter’s lousy user service and why they don’t figure out a way to waive the limit for journalists (and other people) who are obviously using Twitter conversationally.

Frank was right that the answer was longer than my tweet, but certainly it’s fair game to boil an answer from Twitter CEO’s down to 140 characters.

He said something about lots of other priorities for Twitter’s engineers. This was not long after he said that Twitter’s staff is something like 50 percent engineers. You can’t tell me that Twitter’s engineers aren’t smart enough to figure out a solution for this. They just don’t care.

I’ve blogged a lot about Twitter’s value for journalists. Occasionally I’ll get accused of being a shill for the company. Far from it. I’ve ripped the company before and probably will again. I’ve been repeatedly amazed at how unresponsive Twitter is.

When you hit Twitter’s follower limit (or want help from Twitter on pretty much anything), you’re on your own.

Responses on Twitter

Earlier #twutorial posts

Read Jeremy Stahl’s guide to tweeting during a crisis

#twutorial post: How to embed tweets and follow conversations

Step one for using Twitter as a reporter: Master advanced search

Use lists, TweetDeck, HootSuite, saved searches, alerts to organize Twitter’s chaos

Denver Post staffers’ #theatershooting coverage demonstrates Twitter breaking news techniques

Hashtags help journalists find relevant tweets and reach more people

Advice and examples on how and what journalists should tweet

9 ways to find helpful people and organizations to follow on Twitter

To build Twitter followers: Join the conversation, tweet often, be yourself

10 ways Twitter is valuable for journalists

Updated Twitter time management tips

Don’t be selfish on Twitter; tweeting useful information is good business

What’s the best way to view Twitter’s users? 16 percent or 30 million

Twitter data shows journos’ ‘burstiness’ boosts followers

#Twutorial guest post from Alexis Grant: A simple Twitter strategy that will dramatically grow your network

#Twutorial guest post from Deanna Utroske: Tips for twinterviewing

#Twutorial guest post by Menachem Wecker: How to use Twitter to find the best sources

#Twutorial guest post by Jaclyn Schiff: How using Storify can help you find great sources

Getting started on Twitter: #twutorial advice for a friend

Should a journalist livetweet a funeral? If so, how?

Use Twitter for conversation about an event, not just promotion

How to verify information from tweets: check it out

In addition, these two posts that predate the #twutorial series cover some of the points I’ll make in the workshop:

Suggestions for livetweeting

Updated and expanded Twitter tips for journalists

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