By Bliss Davis, Bowling Green State University Journalism Student
I’ll admit I don’t actually tweet very much, but I regularly read Twitter feeds I enjoy and find useful. I’ve been fascinated by social networking before it was even called social networking (at least I think so, let’s just say a long time), and it has become a habit for me to pinpoint trends, favorite practices and not-so-favorite practices when settling on a feed I really like reading. As such, here are five Twitter habits I’ve personally used when I was an intern to help make a news site more appealing to our Twitter audience. Doing so not only brought a lot of traffic, but our viewership became more inclined to send news tips and other important info as well.
1. Following those who follow you, especially if they are in your viewing area.
This primarily applies to local stations. Through following those in our viewing area, we gained a significant increase in website traffic. Interestingly, much of this traffic came from the friends/followees of those we were already following. I would set a personal goal of being within a 500 followers of those already following the station (i.e. If we had 5,000 followers, I would aim to follow at least 4,500. This was the starting point). Through this our web traffic grew significantly.
2. Spread out updates, and also have a special update time.
One of my favorite aspects of working with the web is the immediate feedback. True, not all of it is pleasant, but certainly gives insight into what could possibly be a step in the right direction. With all of that said, sending out back-to-back tweets is not the best idea. After asking around (using Twitter), something along the lines of an hour-ish was ideal for a lot of our viewers, and that’s the minimum. I know, I know…it may pain some to take so long to post tweets, but folks won’t mind. Instead in the mean time, for example, use specific times to tweet weather updates, or release important contest info at a particular time on Tuesdays. It’ll make your feed seem less random and more fact/info oriented.
3.) #hashtag is your friend.
The #hashtag allows you to create search trends on Twitter. Using a recent, notorious story, #balloonboy would have been a perfect way to get website visitors, pending #balloonboy was your own special #hashtag for that story. Similarly, it’s a great idea to #hashtag your Twitter @username so as to 1.) Potentially generate a special search SEO for your station site and 2.) In the process, also create your own archive system. Now, there are a few kinks with this practice, but for the most part tags such as #KTHV, #NBC_DFW or #FOXtoledo would create search trends leading to your feed and website.
4.) Loosen up a bit!
Maybe it’s a personal thing, but I especially like feeds that are not only to the point but also personable. In true producer form, I mix up my tweets from sounding tease-like to the more “what” oriented for the more serious tweets. Directing questions at viewers or inviting them to upload wacky weather pics, for example, works wonders as well.
People like giving their opinion. This isn’t a new revelation or anything, but definitely useful. This also allows you to ask questions, adding to the personable bit in #4.
I’m pretty sure you’re probably well aware of websites designed to make tweeting more efficient. Sites like TidyTweet.com and TweetLater make the whole process a lot less labor intensive. Don’t be shy! I’ve noticed people enjoy tweets from our more visible newsroom members (anchors, reporters). Go ahead, drop in and say “hello” every so often, viewers honestly appreciate it.
Got any other Twitter tips? Share the wealth! :) Bliss is on Twitter at @journalistbliss.