The Flipside: How Newspapers Should Use Twitter To Disseminate Information

In Online on December 30, 2008 at 10:36 am


(Chicago Tribune photo by Bill Hogan, plucked from The Huffington Post–great link to the back story on the Tribune’s social media evolution)

One thing that irks me about most newspapers is their poor understanding on how to utilise Twitter as a social media tool for disseminating their news. Sure, a newspaper could look “cool and hip” by adding Twitter on their list, but it gets annoying fast when all the Twitter account does is spew out RSS feeds like a bot.

So far, local news orgs have been treating it like another channel of news alerts: @tm_insider, @thenutgraph, @thestar_rage, mostly employ it as a one-way communication tool. (If you ask me, @msiakini is the biggest irritant in this regard–the tweets are often cut short as headlines stretch over 140 characters- – with no link! WTF, seriously) Granted, while @nikicheong is getting there with The Star’s Rage in being human by putting more than headlines and a link in its Twitter post, there’s hardly a relationship built there.

So how should papers use Twitter? A great example is how Chicago Tribune’s @ColonelTribune has done it. (Props to NewAssignment’s Tom Cheredar for pointing the link out to me in the article How Should Newspapers Use Twitter?). While Cheredar doesn’t think that “blasting news only through the twitter account is necessarily the wrong use,” he also says that it’s a such a waste of potential in using Twitter to connect with an audience, to get a conversation running.

Firstly, at the very least, make it look as if a human’s running the Twitter account. Getting a “Thank you for the follow, John. It’s a pleasure to Tweet you” direct message may not seem like much, but compared to other corporate Tweet accounts, this was an acknowledgment that I was more than just a number. Secondly, I love how @ColonelTribune tweets, promoting engagement with followers through @ replies and mixing up news headlines with questions like “Who is your favorite Chicago-area blogger? Please let us know,” and “What do you think of this @scobleizer post?“. Hats off to the Tribune too for linking out to other news sources besides their own.

Sure, it’ll take more devotion on the ‘papers part to constantly monitor the feeds and reply back, but this is a time when the web is built around a central theme of “The Web Is Social”; being human is the least some organisations could do.

What do you think is the right way for a newspaper to use Twitter in this regard?


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