Required to Tweet? What to discuss.

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.