I was thinking about this the other day when someone told me how much they appreciated the way that ParkCityTV was using Twitter compared to other news media outlets. First of all, in Park City, the newspaper cancelled its Twitter account after about a week, the radio station, which is most folks primary news source, doesn't even use the service.
Having worked in old media (TV & radio) and new media for the last 15+ years, I know that these are things that will work.
1) Keep it local. You have to figure that someone following a local news source is somewhat of a news junkie and is also following a national news outlet. Don’t feed them the same AP story that they already read about on @CNNbrk or @NYTimes. Find the content that your followers really want from you, and give it to them.
2) Keep it interesting. Don’t just give us the top story headlines (again, local), find the stuff that is quirky, dramatic and might otherwise be buried inside the paper/late in the newscast. Those are the pieces that “go viral” and get passed around. We have over 300 views of a video of a local 5K run, while a “hard news” piece has under 50. Think about that…
3) Use your personalities. Don’t just feed the same news stories on your website, let your columnists/beat writers tweet about what they know. Food writers should be telling folks about what they made for dinner. TV critics, talk about what you’re previewing. Police beat – odd cases that came across the blotter. Most importantly, let them have their own voice – not a “just the facts” hard-news template. This is the space for “reporters notebooks” where they can give quick reactions to interviews/press conferences/games before the story is done.
4) Keep it coherent. Too many news orgs just tweet off their RSS feed which duplicates headlines, or runs well over the 140 character limit, leading to things like this:
Why is the first line of the story repeated? With that much text, it makes it hard for other people to retweet, and it doesn't add anything to the post. If you’re going to automate a system, make sure it works.
5) Follow your followers. This is a good rule for everyone on Twitter, but especially for people in the news business. You never know where a good story idea is going to come from, but by following people, you’ll find some gems. This whole thing is about interacting with each other, and you can’t send direct messages if you’re not following someone. Which leads to…
6) …Retweet interesting info. This one is tough for news orgs, who like to tout their role as gatekeepers of information, but rather than just going to an interesting link, copying it onto your blog, then posting a link to your site, be honest and let folks know where you found it. Transparency is more than just the hot new buzzword, it shows you’re a stand-up company. Plus, it shows you value your readers/viewers/listeners input.
7) Use it to promote upcoming content. This is a bit tricky as you don’t want to tip your cards to the competition, but if you have a hot story that you’re going to run, tell folks about it the same way you would in an on-air promo.
Finally, remember that Twitter is another tool that you can and should be using to get your message out. People are following Twitter everywhere in the world and anywhere they can (on their phones, netbooks, office computer) so it’s imperative that you give your old media new tricks (credit for that phrase goes to: http://www.oldmedianewtricks.com)