Twitter Direct Message Change Could Make News Tips On Twitter Easier

By this point in time, every reporter has probably tried to reach out to some potential source via Twitter. It’s awkward, and often if the subject is of interest to you they’re probably inundated with other requests.

A quick search today of the phrase “reporter” & “reach” turned up examples of how most of us go about it today:

See, awkward.

Not to mention exposed. What if you want to reach someone without tipping off your competition? What if you don’t want to put all your contact information out there day in and day out? What if you’re trying to reach a bunch of people — you look like a spam bot with tweet after tweet after tweet of the same thing. Plus, it gives off the “he’s just not that into me vibe” to potential sources.

In an ideal world, you’d be able to see their email address or other contact information and take the convo off Twitter where it belongs. That’s not happening. But Twitter recently made a subtle change to direct messages that over time should be good for journalists. You can direct message people who aren’t following you back.

Currently you can send a direct message to any user who follows you, and likewise anyone you follow could direct message you:

Now, there’s an option to allow any of your followers to DM you — even if you’re not following them. It’s an opt-in feature, but one that could be useful for businesses and reporters. (Several posts about this on this mention you can toggle this feature on/off, but on a spot check of various accounts I have access to and comments on other stories this isn’t rolled out to everyone yet, so you may need to wait to take advantage.)

My hunch is this is great for companies or public officials who want to be able to receive concerns and exchange info privately — out of the stream where they could be publicly embarrassed. I think this also is a win for journalists, who I’d urge to turn it on even though it could open the gates to some spam. Reporters in breaking news situations or who are trolling Twitter for sources can avoid the repeated awkward display of public desperation and send out a general tweet to “DM me if you know more or want to talk about it”. If the person you want to connect with happens to follow your account (or more likely your general news organization feed) and switch this on you could even DM them proactively. It also means you and your news organization can start to receive and react to direct messages with news tips or sources on Twitter outside the public stream.

What do you think: Open season on inbox spam or a good idea to turn it on?