Twitter is like a square or piazza, Livia Iacolare of Twitter Italia said in “Masterclass for journalists: Twitter and Periscope”. There are four things that Twitter has in common with a square. Firstly, everything that happens on Twitter happens in real time. Secondly, Twitter is public just as everything that happens in a piazza is made public. Thirdly, Twitter is conversational, just as a square is conversational. Lastly, Twitter is distributed, just as the events in a square are discussed and distributed.
Twitter has 320 million active users every month and 1 billion tweets are sent every two days. About 80% of its users are mobile, which is why journalists need to take advantage of the ability to be in someone’s pocket.
There are four main ways journalists can enhance their engagement with Twitter, Iacolare said: detect, narrate, enrich and interact.
Journalists need to optimise their followings in line with their interests whilst being careful not to limit themselves. They need to make themselves known among their colleagues and foreign counterparts as well as to be aware of who they follow, as this information is public.
Making lists on Twitter can prove to be very useful, Iacolare suggested. Lists categorise your followings making it easier to navigate through an array of people. TweetDeck is a service run by Twitter that allows you to monitor different topics, hashtags, users and subjects, making your timeline easier to filter. This service also allows you to exclude retweets from your timeline, making it less crowded, and to see tweets with fewer than 100 retweets for example, in order to only view the most popular tweets around that subject. You can also set a time frame so that you only view tweets within a certain time period. A geolocalisation feature is also available which allows you to only see tweets within a certain radius of a given location.
You can also turn on notifications for specific accounts. For example, if you were waiting for the French Prime Minister to give a response to a certain topic, you can turn on notifications so that you are immediately aware when his response is made. This is also useful for accounts who rarely tweet or for when following a colleague who is live-tweeting.
Journalists need to introduce themselves on Twitter, Iacolare explained. Twitter is a great way to enhance your identity and you are better referenced on Google with a Twitter account. Journalists can also promote their work, by tweeting articles and getting them noticed, and journalists also to enhance their engagement on Twitter by showing causes that they support.
A seemingly obvious piece of advice, but one that is often overlooked, is to fill in your profile. Include your first and last name, a recent photo, a brief biography with a URL and a background image. All of this is useful in building an online identity. Every tweet is public, Iacolare said, and screenshots will last so be careful to verify the information you tweet.
Be yourself, tweet regularly and try to be interactive by connecting your tweets, Iacolare suggested. This is done by replying to your own tweet but removing your username. This moves the tweet up the timeline and allows you to engage with previous ideas, giving a sense of continuity. This can also be used to correct a mistake if the mistake has already been seen by numerous people.
Her advice for live-tweeting is to be present. If it needs to be covered by a journalist then it deserves to be tweeted live. It is also useful to remain relevant and concise by only tweeting important quotes, powerful pictures and videos and by using short hashtags. Make sure you are equipped with spare batteries in case of an emergency, Iacolare said. And be prepared and exhaustive by checking the spelling of names before the event.
Grab people’s attention by adding pictures and screenshots to your tweets. Enrich your tweets using numbers, quotes and photos and even with images of old media from your newspaper or magazine. Your account can be highlighted by putting your Twitter name out there through whichever means possible.
Share data with the audience. For example, use photos to tease your readers about future events, this way the readers will expect something in the future and will look out for it. Identify users in a photo, add a video of up to 30 seconds or even add image descriptions. Above all, Iacolare advised journalists to get permission for any photos they post and to keep their accounts safe.
Journalists can also enhance their work through Periscope, an app bought by Twitter a year ago which allows the user to broadcast live video to the world or, as they put it, “explore the world through someone else’s eyes”.
It is a live, unfiltered experience which aims to be immersive, immediate and intimate. As of January 2016, there were more than 100 million broadcasts on Periscope and, as of July 2015, there were more than 10 million accounts. Every day 40 years’ worth of video is watched through Periscope.
Make sure you have a descriptive title to grab the user, Iacolare advised. Don’t be afraid to broadcast long videos but make sure not to exceed 3 to 5 broadcasts a day in order not to overcrowd the user’s feed.
Periscope allows users to send “hearts” to the broadcaster in order to express appreciation for the video. Similar to a “like” on Twitter, this does not necessarily express joy but more gratification to the broadcaster.
Overall, Iacolare said, journalists should take advantage of the growing internet community and the innovative methods in which they can engage with their readers.