Archive for October 1st, 2012

Thanks to Menachem Wecker of U.S. News & World Report for this #twutorial guest post: 

Menachem Wecker

Self-portraiture used to be something that artists tended to gravitate toward when they couldn’t afford models. There are exceptions, of course, such as Rembrandt, who painted himself as a startled, young man, yet too small to fill his smock, and continued to study his own features even as a mature artist — a good deal stockier and more severe in his gaze. But even when the 17th century Dutch painter peered through the mirror, he was listening rather than talking.

Without naming any names, some social media ninjas, gurus, and other self-declared experts have given social media a bad name for their incessant babbling about themselves. It’s true. Twitter, Facebook, and all the other social tools are great platforms for people who like to trumpet their own fleeting thoughts. But even more importantly, social networks are unprecedented machinery for listening. That’s particularly true for journalists.

But specifically when it comes to Twitter, there’s listening and then there’s listening. I’ve long contended that social media networks are the closest thing I can think of to a crystal ball. It might be sexier to be a ninja or a guru, but mining the search-engine optimized Tweets of millions of users is actually far more valuable to a journalist. Some people turn to social media to reinforce what they already think they know. Others take the social media plunge with an open mind, knowing they will find things they never knew to even seek.

That’s true of sources as well. As the education reporter at U.S. News & World Report, I spend a lot of time talking to prospective and current students, digging for consumer-focused higher education trends. It would be a cinch to just call up the communications offices at colleges and universities across the country rather than hunting for sources on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. But there are a few reasons I try to use that path only as a last resort in a pinch. (more…)


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