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No doubt about it, Twitter is a fascinating place to track news people. Stations are pushing journalists to tweet. It’s super easy and quickly reaps rewards that stroke your ego. You cannot help but tweet nowadays and promote your work and yourself.
We have spent the last several months tracking more than 1,200 journalists and how they tweet. Here are some trends we’ve noticed that really play a part in whether a journalist comes across as credible.
You Tweet Observations
- Descriptions Are Crucial
- Personal Isn’t Personal
- Watch Your Words
- Variety Is Essential
The first thing we noticed was how different the profile descriptions are. Some simply say: “Joe Schmo is a TV news reporter.” Some only have a name. Some say things like: “I’m a TV reporter who loves beer” or “I am really exciting especially when I am out on the town.” Because so many of the descriptions were either really dull or a little too flashy, we want to delve into the importance of the profile description. You need to place elements that make you seem like an interesting person to connect with, without being too flashy or unprofessional. In general, bosses don’t want to read about your love of any kind of alcohol and anything that makes it seem like you party hard when you are not at work. If you read that and are saying: “Hey this is my personal account, back off!” read on please.
Always remember, your personal account isn’t truly personal. It is too easy to type in your name and get access to both accounts, especially on Twitter. Also, once you take a job on-air in TV news, that is who you are when you present yourself in public, period. You represent your station at all times no matter how much you would like to separate yourself into a public person and a private person. TV news employers can and will use your personal behavior (or misbehavior) in evaluating you because it reflects on them due to the high profile nature of the job and you being part of their public face. It is simply a fact of life in TV news.
Besides, you want to use an account that is not directly tied to your station to help showcase your personality and all of its sellable points to potential bosses as well as your throng of adoring fans. Even if you have a professional account (i.e. station required) and a personal account, people are going to monitor the personal one as much or even more. You tagged it as “personal” and that makes it more compelling to many viewers immediately. It’s a chance to see the true colors of their favorite TV personality. And we have seen plenty of colorful comments that make it obvious many think that industry professionals, like future bosses are not reading their tweets. Not the case and potentially a major career mistake.
Which leads to our next point, watch your words when you tweet and not because of the 150 character limit. Twitter is an excellent place to track people you are interested in hiring one day. It is a real life way to see how they interact with other people, and how much they respect (or take for granted) their role as a journalist. We have read about wild parties via tweets as well as drinking, sex jokes and crude remarks. We’ve also seen plenty of the f word in journalists tweets. In just a few short months we have groups of journalists we check on each day because they are fascinating reads in the tweet world. We have also seen a lot of journalists who are, simply put, loose cannons. Some of what they write is so over the top, there’s no way a manager that monitors Twitter would ever have interest in hiring them. Remember, when possible, we monitored personal accounts. We are guessing people act more in tune with their true character on those accounts.
So what’s a journalist to do if they want a personal account, but obviously need to avoid getting too edgy? Variety is essential. Give slice of life elements to your tweets along with work related stuff. We love seeing journalists talk about standing in the heat for stories, relieved to get the interview they’ve been chasing all day or tweeting about a fact that fascinated them that day. Tweeting about the stories you are working creates a personal connection that makes you wonder what the stories are these media folk churn out. It can also help you source build (See How to generate story ideas when you are swamped ). But remember, if the story you are working on is legally sensitive in any way, your tweets can be used against you if someone decides to sue you and/or your station.
Reading about the great meal you had or wishing a friend a happy birthday are warm and easy to relate to as well. Many people are tweeting about running or working out and encouraging each other. Some just have silly stories about their day. Remember this is a great networking opportunity. We are enjoying watching journalists really support each other and joke around while remaining professional. But never forget, once you become a TV news journalist your public and private identities become highly intertwined. So while you are making sure your tweets are engaging, quirky and relatable also make sure they are professional and present you in a positive light. The world is watching, not just your friends and family.