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Journalists and public relations on Twitter for beginners

TweetFor a journalist, incorporating Twitter into your professional life can be a lot like eating Rocky Road ice cream. You have your real informative news, which is akin to the nuts. And then there is the not so informative, but highly entertaining soft and sweet marshmallow swirls. Regardless of how you view it, using Twitter can be a real treat and should be added to your regular professional diet, in moderation of course. If you learn how to weed through what’s out there and become a part of the conversation, you’ll be able to create a loyal, educated following over time and a great way to promote your own content.

Once you create a Twitter account, for either your name or your brand, make yourself easy to find. Put your full name and the word reporter, editor, or journalist in your bio, along with the outlet(s) you work for. Next, sign up with MediaOnTwitter.com. This provides a database listing of journalists using Twitter that can be sorted alphabetically by the reporter’s name or outlet. If you cover hard news, you’ll turn up on Muck Rack, which provides Twitter feeds from contributors at major media companies onto one pretty page. Muck Rack is great exposure, but you can’t submit yourself to be included. So, how else can you be found?

Don’t let your tweets fall on deaf ears. If you want someone to notice your tweets, include the pound symbol (a hashtag in Twitter speak) and a one-word description of your topic. If you tweet about Egypt for example, putting #Egypt in your tweet will let other users locate tweets on the topic. Of course, the people already following you will be able to read it, but gathering news followers is always an added bonus. You also want loyal followers because people who care about the same topics you cover will be more likely to share, or re-tweet, your posts. Don’t just let other people re-tweet the brilliant things you say, however. Return the favor to the people following you, or the people you follow. It’s as easy as saying, “Hey, @namehere posted this clever comment today.”

If you’re still having trouble being found, try joining the discussions going on in the blog community covering your industry. For example, if you Google “travel writers on Twitter” you’ll find a link to BootBlog, which lists about 30 of the author’s favorite travel writers and their Twitter handles. In response to the list, travel writers who felt left out posted their Twitter handles in the comments section below the author’s article in order to garner more followers. Meanwhile, similar results can be found by searching for “best tech bloggers on Twitter.” Don’t see your name listed? Leave a comment and add your Twitter handle to the discussion.

Now that you’re starting to get your name out there, don’t be boring. Twitter best serves those who have a focus and a personality. If you cover architecture, but want to post a comment about your new iPhone, that’s perfectly acceptable. It’s even okay to let your followers know you’ve been at the vet all morning with your golden retriever. If someone has the same breed, you’ve now got a connection point that makes you more human. Just spare us your complaints most of the time. Unjustified negativity is rarely popular.

One final note about incorporating Twitter into your daily workflow: it’s a liquid. Contain it if you have to. If you work from a desktop all day and would like to see tweets from the people you follow without having to leave your Word document, use TweetDeck. Each post will pop up on your screen like e-mail notifications in Microsoft Outlook. Once in awhile you’ll also want to clean house. Every few months or so, go through the list of people whose tweets you follow and determine whether it’s time to click the “unfollow” button on your Twitter screen.

There are so many supplemental programs (usually free) to help with managing your Twitter life, that if there’s something you want to know, just search for it online. Chances are there’s another journalist who has had the same question, and maybe even written an article about it – one you just might want to tweet.

–Rebecca Bredholt

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