5 Key Lessons That Journalists Learn From Twitter

Twitter is a great social media tool for journalists — but the fact is that the vast majority of the public doesn’t use Twitter for their news. The good news? Twitter actually teaches you valuable lessons that apply to journalism as a whole. Here are 5 broad lessons you can learn from your micro-messaging habits.

1. How to Grab People’s Attention. As a journalist, you will want to draw your audience into the story. This doesn’t necessarily mean sensationalizing — even if you are writing a rational, even-minded article you will want to advertise it with a good headline or caption. This tweet about the Chilean miners from @HuffingtonPost, for example, grabs you without any false drama.

2. How to Gather Information. Twitter does a great job of encouraging its users to follow as many people as they wish. The site clearly displays how many accounts everyone is following and how many followers everyone has — there’s a great built-in incentive to follow more users. Twitter lets you multiply your sources infinitely, and then presents all of the information in timelines that mix your sources up, preventing you from relying on any one person too much. Of course, responsible journalism requires reputable sources, but Twitter teaches you the value of clicking on links to find out more … you will quickly learn that the real treasures are often a few layers deep.

3. And How to Cite Information. Clear and simple, Twitter gets you in the habit of citing your sources, encouraging you to include the “@” symbol and the RT abbreviation in your tweets. On Twitter, there’s no shame in nodding to other people in your tweets. As much as you want to offer fresh analysis in journalism, it’s always bad form to take someone else’s idea and pretend it’s your own.

4. How to Incorporate Multimedia. Twitter will induct you into the world of multimedia. Especially with the new Twitter, you’ll get used to seeing how photos, videos, and audio clips can enhance an article or message, whether your subject is a culture piece or hard news.

5. How to Be Aggressive. Working as a reporter will quickly teach you that it’s necessary to butt your head in people’s doors to get the answers you need. Sometimes you have to go places where you feel you don’t belong, but if there’s a fact or a source that will make your story, you’ll have to get aggressive. Some might argue that Twitter still lets you hide behind the wall of the internet, but the site really encourages you to get involved in conversations with strangers. Replying to someone you don’t know or retweeting a source that you have no connection to gets you in the habit of jumping right in. (Internet safety rules apply!)

What ways has Twitter made you into a superior journalist?