How To Have An Edge On Twitter Without Ruining Credibility

Social Awareness, Uncategorized Comments Off on How To Have An Edge On Twitter Without Ruining Credibility
Nov 242014

Last week’s episode of HBO’s “The Newsroom” (titled: “Run”) tried to make a statement about journalists use of Twitter. In fact, it appears that TV journalists use of social media is going to be a theme this season.

In “Run” the character Hallie sends out a late night tweet from ACN’s account saying “Boston Marathon: Republicans rejoice that there’s finally a national tragedy that doesn’t involve guns.” When asked what made her even think of a tweet like that, the answer is “retweets.”

Ok, so we all know this is hypothetical and some might even say “All journalists know better than a posting a politically charged tweet like that one.” But just within the last several days a real TV network was called out for an insensitive tweet.

And if you read FTVLive or Huffington Post, then you have likely seen the site point out examples of countless insensitive tweets and inappropriate exchanges on the local level. Here are three recent examples: media

Bottom line, journalists and industry leaders are struggling to have an edge on Twitter and other social media. Make fun of “The Newsroom” bringing up retweets all you like, but there’s truth in the not so thinly veiled critique. Journalists are getting a lot of pressure from their bosses to get lots of retweets, followers and influence on social media. So let’s talk about ways to get an edge without ending up embarrassed.

Let’s get something straight first. Journalists are tempted to go too far for two reasons. The influence of so called “citizen journalists” and pressure from above to be influential on social media. So let’s break those ideas down a bit.

Citizen journalists, are eyewitnesses, often with video or still images of newsworthy events. But they also often have biases. They are untrained in how to interpret situations, so they simply show what they see and then try to insert their OPINIONS on the issue.

Actual trained journalists, first and foremost need to keep their opinions off of their “official” social media accounts. That would have fixed several of the above scenarios as well. Now, I know this has been said before to you, but there’s the temptation to inject opinion because of the influence/retweet factor. With few exceptions the most influential “voices” on social media are full of opinions and very clearly state them. So how can you get that edge, and not follow in those same footsteps?

First and foremost, journalists must define their roles on social media. Just like a newsroom defines its news philosophy for its newscasts. Since many TV stations and companies are not willing or able to give you clear guidelines to define that role, let’s set up a framework for you to start doing it yourself.

What Is A Journalist On Twitter?
Educated Witness
Divulger of Information
Conversation Starter

What if journalists defined their roles with those three simple statements I just listed? Let’s dive in a little more.

As an educated witness, you need to fill up your social media accounts with images you see and characters you have met. You need to provide facts or explain you are searching for specific information as you showcase the images. Standing in front of a crime scene saying “We are first on the scene” is what a citizen journalist would do. They want to show off that they are there. A regular schmo, excited at a chance to be a part of something. You are a witness to many events, and go into those situations with some knowledge and the know how to get more information. See how the temptation to post a tweet like standing in front of a crime scene and saying “Here we are” is less likely to happen with the definition educated witness? I want to make sure you understand, viewers and folks on Twitter EXPECT you to be at the scene. And they expect more out of you than showing you are there. They want you to do something with your social media accounts that they can’t just do themselves.

Which leads to the next part of our definition, divulger of information. As you showcase the images you have (because you want to have an edge/influence and plenty of retweets) add a nugget of information.

“Firefighters fear these flames reach higher than their aerial ladder can go.”
“This accident scene looks awful but everyone walked away safely.”
“This pile of documents could change how your child is tested in school.”

Think extra details. Divulge information. Think how and why. Why does this image I am sending look this way? How will people be impacted by this picture? Why care about a pile of documents? What will firefighters face that a citizen journalist cannot easily notice or explain? These nuggets of information make you credible and valuable to follow. You gain an edge. You gain followers. You gain influence.

Finally, when you look at the most influential people on Twitter they are great at interacting with “their peeps.” They engage in conversation. So start some. You can bring up an issue without inserting your opinion. You can ask questions of your followers. Then retweet some of the reactions you get to engage people into talking more. If they see that you are interested in what they have to say, followers respect you more. They are more willing to bring things up to you. Engaging does not have to mean showing your breakfast donut and talking about how you exercise. If you are in an editorial meeting and thinking, does anyone care that city council is voting on allowing a new development, ask. See if you get hits. I know some of you are saying it tips off the competition if you do these things. But if you want to gain social media trust and influence, you have to start letting your followers in on the news of the day. There is a counter argument that they will let their friends know you are considering this story or that story, and encouraging them to tune in to see it. You need to establish credibility and create an edge. That means being willing to give up some nuggets to get the big prize.

So there you go. Define your role as a journalist on social media. How do you want to come across? How do you want the information you have to share to be viewed? If you focus on the information and allowing viewers to converse and engage you can avoid pitfalls. People retweet when they are interested in the topic. You do not have to be the voice of that topic. You can be the instrument by which the topic is explored, through images, nuggets of information and asking viewers to weigh in. You can have an edge on social media without the posts being about you. Remember, you are an educated witness who has information and knows how to get that information discussed. That will make you edgy, interesting and influential. Win, win and win!

Creating Community: Successfully Build Your Social Media Following

Social Awareness Comments Off on Creating Community: Successfully Build Your Social Media Following
Feb 262014

Over the last couple of years I have monitored a lot of stations, hash tag groups and individual journalists who have thousands of followers and big Klout in social media.  There is a common thread.  These stations, groups and individuals do not use social media for overt promotion.  Yep.  No bragging.  No showing off.  No pics of their Emmys on their Instagram accounts.  Instead these successful social media entities do something else. They ask for other people’s opinions or they ask for clarification on things they have seen or heard.  In short, they create a sense of community.

Many journalists are being pressured to come up with innovative ways to engage the audience through social media.  If you want to move into management you better have a proven track record, at least through your own social media accounts.  When you ask what the stations want, they have the same answer: tonnage.  As intimidating as that may seem, there is a simple way to create that volume.  Build a sense of community.  That means letting the people who “follow” you know that what they have to say is important and engaging.  That means you, the hot shot TV star, are not the most important thing.  (I say this partly joking, many journalists especially if you are on-air are pressured by your bosses to show off how cool you are.  That’s frustrating, confusing and intimidating in its own right.)

So how do you build a sense of community?  You have to find subjects that people want to exchange information about.  You will have to be brave enough to experiment a bit and when you strike a cord, look for similar subjects.  This will take time and effort, but it can be very exhilarating also.  When you see two of your followers engaging with each other, keep engaging with them as well.  It does not matter who thought of the idea being discussed first.  Just run with it and encourage even more input.  Make your followers feel more like contributors.  Your numbers will explode.  Best of all, I guarantee you will find spending time on social media a very rewarding part of your career instead of another chore you need to mark off your to do list each day.


Social TV: Making The Most Of Planned And Unplanned Interactions

Social Awareness Comments Off on Social TV: Making The Most Of Planned And Unplanned Interactions
Jan 162014

Social TV is storytelling. While just 16 percent of Americans are on Twitter, nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults are on Facebook, according to a recent Pew Study. Social media users are vocal viewers that are likely to influence their friends and family to tune in. We want those viewers to watch and engage in real time and make live TV a different experience than they get reading the news online – which is where interactive TV comes in.

The interaction can be approached two ways — planned, pre-produced segments; and unplanned moments such as breaking news.

The planned:

Social TV sings when it is a produced element of a show. It should be part of the story telling — not tacked on. You can incorporate viewers into a real-time poll, or asking viewers a question to answer, think of how to engage the audience and take your show into the live TV “you snooze you lose” category.

These stories can be mini elements worked into a package with set-up or more involved. One of the more-in-depth interactive stories we’ve done was our story on the bystander effect. We sent our promotions producer outside in various situations — moaning in the cold as a well-dressed person, again in a hoodie and jeans, and then to steal a bike at a transit station (with UTA’s permission). As the package aired, we asked questions to our audience, i.e. “how long will it take someone to help him?” and “how many people will stop the bike theft” and engaged with them in a conversation and showed their comments in real time.

The story was promoted as an interactive over the weekend and generated a ratings lift over our lead-in — and a lot of people buzzing about how they were anxious to see how people reacted. Our Facebook reach numbers jumped during the story as well.

A fantastic example I saw of this was a Today Show #OrangeRoom segment with Tamron Hall. They had talked about electric baby cradles — and Tamron did a live demo with a crying baby (!) to show whether or not they worked. That’s better than any tweet on air — making TV work for its medium.

The unplanned: Social media becomes your friend and your enemy during breaking news. Photos pour in — but no one wants to be the news station that gets punked and puts false information on air. Set a plan in place now that everyone can follow to verify what information is reliable. Once information is verified, and you have permission to use it, take it to air as user generated content. Let it help you tell the story in real time, as it happens. We have done this in breaking news — especially in situations when we want to break in, and we have confirmed information, but our satellite truck or chopper just hasn’t quite reached the scene. It serves as a bridge.

Here are some tips:

1. Learn who you can trust:  I’ve made a twitter list of good social citizens — people that tweet us often with real information, or PIOs that I can trust. From there, I can look at the people they follow and interact with. (This works well with national and international events — start every big event with a Twitter list) 2. Use the information that social media gives you. Look at timestamps and to see the genuine intrigue in people’s messages (are they more shocked by what they just witnessed — or do they seem more interested in having their picture be on TV? It should be the former, not the latter). If it comes through Facebook message, get more information. Better yet, if it’s a good picture, get their contact information, and get an interview.

3. If it is a large event, compare photos. In 2012, we had a horrible wildfire season and every time a new wildfire would start, we would get the same picture of a famous Utah landmark with a fiery sunset behind it. With reverse Google Image search, we were able to trace it to a local photographer who had taken it two years previous.

4. Inform your newsroom. Don’t forget that if you discover something is false, to not live in a vacuum. Tell people, so that all of your producers know and the content doesn’t make it on air.

For a great report on verification and breaking news, read this Q&A with Jennifer Preston of the New York Times.


Natalie Wardel @nataliewardel is the Social Media Director for KSL in Salt Lake City.  Tweet her with questions and/or comments.


How to tease on Twitter: A key secret revealed!

Social Awareness Comments Off on How to tease on Twitter: A key secret revealed!
Oct 162013

A Philly anchor’s recent twitter tease about a real life shootout and the hit show “Breaking Bad” has set off a lot of discussion.  In this case, I am going to look more closely at creative ways to tease on Twitter, without potentially crossing the line. Fact is, teasing is not most journalists strong suit as it is.  We have a series of articles dedicated to help write teases for newscasts.  Now let’s talk Twitter.  The 140 character limit makes it even harder to get the message across clearly.  But I am about to reveal a secret that shows, Twitter teases are actually less difficult to pull off.

Teasing Guidelines for Twitter:

Coming up – BIG no no

Human Link

Remember Images


The number one mistake I see in Twitter teases is using the term “Coming up at.. (show listing)…” as a first line.  Never start a tease this way, period.  Even on Twitter.  It is a throwaway cliche line that really turns off the audience.  You need to get to the sell, which frankly is the reason you want to tease the story.  That is your first line, you can say when to watch after that.

The sell of the tease, is the human link, or what some consultants and managers call the WIFM or viewer benefit.  So, if there’s a character in the story, introduce that. If you found ways to save viewers a ton of money, say that.  If you have kick butt video say that.  The best part about Twitter, is there’s an intimacy to it.  You frankly do not have to be as ‘colorful’ a writer as you do in newscasts. (Here’s the big secret reveal!! ) People on Twitter, are looking for interesting information.  The expectation to be entertained is not as much of a given.  They are looking for facts, and people’s reactions to those facts.  The human link needs to be simple and direct on Twitter.  A lot of the work is already done for you.  People are seeking out your information, instead of you desperately trying to draw them in and keep them.  Think long and hard about that one.  It really fundamentally changes the way you need to tease, and should eliminate some of the pressure to ‘relate’ the story to a trend (or dare I say, a TV show).

Also, many visual TV journalists forget to use the simplest, yet most effective technique: an image.  I am guessing I am far from alone, when I say the number one way to draw me in on Twitter is to include a picture or a link to something.  My natural instinct is to click to learn more.  Don’t forget the very famous line “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  I encourage using images to build your Twitter fan base anyway.  When you tease, pictures are exceptionally effective because few people do it.  Show a scene setter.  Show the person you are centering the story around in an action shot.  Heck, showing an image of a document has suckered me in before.  A shot of a document would not work for a TV news tease.  But it can work for a Twitter tease.  Again, that’s because people on Twitter are actively seeking out information.  You do not have to sell as hard.  They want to learn more, see more and experience more.  Provide links to images, and you will sell your stories and/or newscasts.

Finally, remember that the best way to link up with Twitter followers is through hashtags.  Use them in teases to draw more people in.  Look for “local” hash tags and use them when you can.  I really suggest using established hashtags more so than creating a unique one for your tease/tweet.  There are people who mine these hashtags each day looking for information on particular topics.  Again, they are waiting for you to deliver the information, a captive audience!  Use that.  If there are no good local hashtags for your market, talk with your managers and possibly promotions about creating some that your station can consistently use to draw in audience.  These hashtags are very effective marketing.  Frankly, they’re often more effective than any clever tease you attempt to write.  Consistency is key with the hashtags.  They are a simple trick with potentially huge gains.

So now you know some guidelines for teasing on Twitter.  The secret is out!  Twitter followers want to hear what you are going to showcase.  They want information, pictures and links.  They are actively seeking them.  Link an image, or a human element and your tease will work.  No need to rack your brain to really “suck them in.”  Twitter followers are a captive, willing and, frankly, enthusiastic audience grateful for the chance to read what you have to say. So be straightforward and you will win big fans!


LinkedIn: How to guide to finding sources and exclusives.

Social Awareness, Source Building Comments Off on LinkedIn: How to guide to finding sources and exclusives.
Sep 122013

For years, LinkedIn has just been an online placeholder for my résumé. I didn’t really think about it much and rarely went on there.

However, two things recently happened to change my view of the site.

The first was when my news director assigned me to do an investigation into privacy concerns regarding drones and Ohio leaders’ efforts to snag one of the nation’s coveted slots for a drone testing program.

Although GE’s jet engine subsidiary is headquartered in Cincinnati, aerospace is not something that gets a lot of coverage in my market. So when it came to looking for sources in the drone industry (its executives prefer to call them “unmanned aerial vehicles”), I was starting from zero. One day, I thought, “I wonder if I can find someone to interview by searching LinkedIn?”

Within seconds, I found an executive at TechSolve, a company that does consulting for the aerospace industry. I e-mailed her asking if someone there was doing any work on drones. She said her CEO would love to do an interview. It turns out, he’s one of the major players behind-the-scenes who’s trying to bring a drone-testing program here.

The other thing that made me start respecting LinkedIn more was a conversation with software developer Dave Hatter.

We were doing an on-camera show-and-tell one day for my morning show consumer segment and he had LinkedIn up on his laptop. I couldn’t believe how he was going on and on about it. So I asked him why he likes it so much. He showed me how LinkedIn isn’t just for your résumé anymore. He calls it a very powerful search engine for finding people and connecting with them. He even lands clients and speaking gigs this way.

“One of the key facets I think most people really overlook is the incredible power of the search engine in LinkedIn,” is how he put it to me recently when I asked him to do an entire segment with me about how LinkedIn can help those who are still unemployed find work.

The thing is, his insights are also great for broadcast journalists looking to make connections to move up the market ladder or, as I demonstrated through dumb luck, finding a great source for a story.

The key, he says, is using what LinkedIn calls its “Advanced People Search.”

For instance, in trying to find someone to interview in the aerospace industry, you could type “aerospace” into the keyword box and your station’s zip code in another box further down the left-hand side of the page.

I just re-enacted my search as I’m writing this. The executive I found earlier came up again. And I just discovered that if you click “similar” below her name, other aerospace industry executives and workers come up on another page. This will be really helpful when you get that dreaded “I’m on vacation” out-of-office reply from your first contact.

But say you’re not working on a story. You’re trying to build your personal brand. Hatter uses LinkedIn for that, too.

“There are over a million groups on LinkedIn,” he said. “Some groups have literally hundreds of thousands of members in them. By joining the group, you now have opt-in permission to share with that group.”

Don’t spam them, he warns. Instead, pass along articles or video links that would appeal to other broadcast journalists or television executives.

Hatter says LinkedIn limits you to 50 groups. That’s probably more than enough for most of us, though there are some LinkedIn power users who sound pretty upset about the cap.

You also want to post on your home page on LinkedIn. If you haven’t been to your account in a while, log-in and take a look. LinkedIn has basically created a professional version of Facebook. After getting Hatter’s advice, I try to post at least once a day on there and allow LinkedIn to send the message to my Twitter followers, too.

Finally, be careful with the recommendations you give others — and especially the recommendations you choose to publish on your profile.

Hatter is also a hiring manager and says it takes an authentic, from-the-heart recommendation on a candidate’s LinkedIn profile to make him take it seriously.

“If I go in and I give you a recommendation, you are going to show-up in front of my entire network as a recommendation from Dave,” he said. “Everyone in your network is going to see that I recommended you. But if I say something like, ‘Matt is an awesome guy,’ does that really carry any weight? And I think a lot of recommendations are pretty shallow and pretty hollow like that.”

Hatter also explains, in an extended clip we put on our station’s website, how to jazz-up your “headline” and profile info to stand-out from the crowd. The headline is really important because it’s what hiring managers see first in their search results, along with your profile photo. And please have a profile photo! I can’t believe how many people in broadcasting don’t put their photo up on LinkedIn.

Hatter told me having no photo is a quick way to get overlooked when a television executive is doing her own “advanced people search” in an effort to fill a job quickly.

In such a competitive industry, we need all the help we can get. So why not put more effort into LinkedIn? After all, it’s free. (Hatter advises against paying for the premium version.)

You can bet the other 90 TV anchor/reporters in America who look just like you will be using LinkedIn. So you’d better, too.


You can connect with Matthew Nordin on LinkedIn and Twitter. He’s an investigative reporter at WXIX-TV in Cincinnati.  And if you want to learn more about how to use this site, check out the group LinkedIn for Journalists (, which offers free tutorials.

Required to Tweet? What to discuss.

Social Awareness Comments Off on Required to Tweet? What to discuss.
Aug 272013

For many journalists, Tweeting and posting on Facebook is now a mandatory part of their job.  In fact a news director in Atlanta recently told the Press Club there that  “any journalist who doesn’t do social media isn’t worth their salt.”  The pressure is certainly on and journalists are certainly feeling it.  I have received several emails asking, “What should I talk about?”

So let’s address that question.  What do you talk about?  We have published a few articles on what not to do, and what to look out for, (see  You Tweet, I Can’t Believe He Posted, and Wanted a New Job) so it’s time to focus on what is acceptable.

Here are some basic things to start tweeting and posting:

  • Interesting tidbits about your day
  • Your hobby
  • Relevant extras about your story
  • Confirmed information that impacts audience

First let’s get this very important question answered.  Many journalists ask, “Should I offer any personal information?”  The answer is: Some.  But keep it the type of information you don’t mind your boss, mother and minister or rabbi reading about.  The first two bullet points about what you should tweet and post address appropriate personal topics.

When I say tweet interesting tidbits about your day, I mean little moments.  Maybe someone said something thoughtful to you.  Maybe you read a fascinating article that really got you thinking.  Say it, or rather, tweet or post it.  Maybe a long lost friend posted a fun comment on your wall.  Mention that you loved hearing from that friend. Show images about your day as well.  Show a shot of the full coffee cup you are about to drink. Mention the new recipe for a breakfast burrito.  These simple things create real connections with other people.  You do not have to spill your guts, to form a bond.  Sharing simple moments are better.

Which leads to another great discussion point, your hobby.  One of my favorite journalists I follow is a ballroom dancer who loves the performing arts.  I enjoy the tidbits, that she is heading to a competition, or enjoyed a performance.  It takes me out of my day-to-day routine and teaches me something new.  I also enjoy a twitter account that mentions “This Day in History” type of information.  The trivia is interesting.  A former boss of mine is an avid motorcyclist.  I enjoy seeing pics of his newest Harley and reading about his latest ride.  Again, simple human connections.  If you love to cook or watch movies or have a favorite TV show, you will make “personal” connections with fans on social media.  Just keep the sports comments clean.

So, now how do you appropriately mention your work?  Just teasing or putting up a link to your latest story or newscast is not enough.  Try and provide some relevant extras.  A journalist recently covered a mission event where people came from all over to see doctors and dentists.  He simply showed images of people waiting, and talked about how the images touched him.  For example, he said one man seemed to look into his soul. He said he had to snap a shot of a baby girl because the bow on her head was so cute.  I have seen journalists snap behind the scenes images of doing interviews, breaking down the cables from live shots, and showing their muddy shoes.  I have seen journalists mention that a story gripped them in some way.  That he/she learned an interesting new fact today.  Some mention what they hope to follow up the next day on a story.  The list goes on and on. Take the viewer into the story, with a paragraph, a photograph or a statement in 140 characters.

Finally, if you have confirmed information about a breaking or developing news event, put it on your twitter stream or post it to Facebook.  Show that you are working the story.  Just put up confirmed information.  And if you are lucky enough to have a station policy guide, adhere to it.

The most important thing to consider, when determining what to Tweet or post is that you want to create connections with your followers.  So you do want some variety.  Use common sense, stick to topics that have mass appeal and remember, your minister or rabbi is likely reading what you write, as well as the boss and your viewers.  Be true to who you are as a journalist, and a person.



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