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Find your voice, find your following on Twitter

Find your Twitter following

Find your Twitter following

The rise of Twitter continues to amaze the skeptics. In just two short years, it has become one of the most popular online applications for people who are building a niche, reaching contacts, or spreading a message online. But according to a Nielsen study, Twitter also has a high drop-off rate after users sign up. Many social media experts are unfazed though, and not just because Twitter remains the fastest growing social network in the country. They say many of those “Twitter quitters” eventually wander back once they find the right people and connections on Twitter. Still, if you’re a public relations professional with limited time and resources, how do you cut through the clutter on Twitter and find the right media professionals? Here are three free tools designed to help you target the right people on Twitter and get the most out of the relationships you form.

Start off on Twitter by searching for the journalists you already know. Twitter allows you to search for users by name and through your e-mail address book. While some journalists post their full identities on their Twitter pages, many don’t publicly share their names in an attempt to decrease spam. You’ll need the right tools to find the journalists you want to follow. Muck Rack aggregates journalists’ tweets, allowing you to read through them before following the journalist. Muck Rack also maintains a list of journalists by beat and news source. On its Twitter page, Muck Rack tweets what the biggest trending topics (the topics being most tweeted about) are among journalists, letting you know what the news buzz of the hour is. Still having trouble finding journalists you want to follow? Media on Twitter keeps an updated database of over 1,000 people in the media. Like Muck Rack, it allows you to search through journalists by name as well as associated news outlet and beat.

If you don’t mind having your Twitter habits analyzed, Mr. Tweet could help you build a valuable following rather quickly. It recommends people for you to follow based on your network and recommends you to other people. In addition, it collects statistics about the frequency and popularity of your “tweets.” @TheRootBuzz is a journalist for the Washington Post, but he focuses on news of particular interest to African-American readers.  He says public relations-types have found him through Mr. Tweet and he says this kind of outreach works well. “The more organic, the better. I find ‘pitches’ to be awkward and uncomfortable … charisma is key,” he says. HAVE A RELATIONSHIP with the journalists you want to pitch.

Do you want to find out what other Twitter users in your network are doing or talking about in real time? Sure, you could scroll through various user accounts or do a search by topic. But, the more efficient way is to use a Twitter client that keeps track of search terms. TweetDeck presents your Twitter account as a personal browser and functions as a dashboard. It shows all of the people in your network, conversations going on between them, and replies to your messages. You can even respond to tweets right from TweetDeck, without opening another window for Twitter. @BRLANewsGirl, a television news journalist, tweets from TweetDeck and has been approached through this Twitter connection. She considers it part of the job. “People do use it to contact me with questions, which I don’t mind,” she says.

If your scope is centered on a specific geographical area, a location-based Twitter service could help you build your connections. The Twitter client Nearby Tweets is a must for anyone interested in making local connections, planning events or targeting users by geography.  It can group followers by location, help to initiate relevant group discussions, and monitor local buzz about a company or product. For example, if the promoters in charge of the AdColor Awards are using Nearby Tweets, they already know their Kick Off Party was successful in stirring up buzz in the New York area for their upcoming awards show. Among the Twitter users chatting about the event was Vibe Magazine editor in chief Danyel Smith, known on Twitter as @danamo.

With 17 million registered Twitter users in the U.S., the possibilities on Twitter are endless. But, when reaching out to journalists via these Twitter tools, public relations professionals should use the same considerations as when pitching to bloggers. Twitter users are bound to be more receptive to someone who has actually read their tweets, blogs, and articles. Remember, the conversation shouldn’t stop with 140 characters. Take advantage of the back-and-forth Twitter naturally fosters to build continuing connections with journalists.

— Erica Thompson Briggs

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