Reflections on using Twitter for microblogging

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With 320 million monthly active users (company statistics found here), Twitter has become a predominant platform for the distribution and consumption of news. It has provided a space for user generated content where everyday users and media organisations alike are able to create and sometimes even break news. It has allowed for an instant source of news and proved the power of 140 characters. According to this report by inventor and journalist, Haje Jan Kamps, the highest percentage of verified users are journalists and they’re among the most active. One of the most appealing reasons may be the ease and access of use as it’s widely available on mobile, meaning journalist’s can use it on the go. Twitter launched as an app to use on all devices in 2010 and according to Twitter, 80% of users are active on mobile; this was definitely something that attracted me to the platform.

I’ve used Twitter for 5 years now and 17,000 tweets later I’m only just beginning to see how it can be utilised effectively. I first realised this when reading this collaborative post by the BBC as it offers practical tips for journalistic practice on Twitter. Previously, I would use the platform to retweet articles that interested me, interact with friends and occasionally tweet about an opinion on a trending topic. However, in light of my news and journalism university assignment, I’ve now learnt how to get the most out of Twitter as a microblog and extension of this blog. You can view my Twitter here.

One of the keys ways to get the most out of Twitter is the use of Twitter Analytics. By looking at the tweets that gained the most impressions and engagements, I was able to identify what worked well and what didn’t. It was as a result of this that I noted how using media in my tweets, combining it with mentions and hashtags, significantly increased my statistics.

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Screenshot taken from my Twitter Analytics.

In this example, the impressions on a tweet that made use of a picture, mentions, a hashtag and a link reached over 10,000. When I compare this to the 50 impressions that my tweets often receive, it was easy to conclude that this was a good formula for engaging an audience. It was for this reason that I continued to use Pablo by Buffer to make aesthetically pleasing images, optimised for Twitter, to promote my blog posts. By overlaying header images from my blog with the title of a post, my aim was generate interest from my followers. It also meant a uniformed look across my Twitter and blog. Other ways I used Twitter to promote my blog included tweeting about articles/journalists that had inspired my posts and contributing to discussions on topics I wanted to blog about with the use of hashtags. I found the integration of Twitter on WordPress to be of particular use when I’d published a post and wanted to share it.

During this assignment I began using Twitter polls. I’d noticed journalists using them to collect information for articles and decided to do the same. Questions I posed to my followers not only began conversations on the platform but also proved beneficial in supporting blog posts that I was in the process of compiling.

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Screenshots taken from my Twitter.

Another useful feature that I was introduced to during this assignment was Twitter lists. I made one for media organisations and another for journalists and bloggers. Twitter is often used as a news source, as The Huffington Post reported here, and this was definitely true of my reasoning for using Twitter prior to the assignment. However, news articles would sometimes get lost on my timeline; having a list eradicates this problem as it means I can view the latest news updates all in one place using my media organisation list. Meanwhile, my journalist and blogger list directs me to more specific and specialised tweets.

Elsewhere, I found following hashtags to be insightful when searching for a topic. This function allowed me to view tweets on particular subject and meant that I could engage in the conversation if I wished to. I found that using the same hashtag, such as #journalism or #journalismblog, throughout my tweets created a sense of cohesiveness for my microblog.

An external application that I employed to enhance my Twitter experience was Tweriod. By analysing the activity of my followers, the site reported the times where they were most active. Although tweeting throughout the day, I tried sharing my blog posts at these times in an attempt to gain as many interactions as possible.

In sum, Twitter is one of the most powerful platforms for both presenting and receiving the news. During this assignment, I have learnt how to use Twitter to enhance my experience of this presenting and receiving. Being introduced to tools such as analytics and lists has helped me to harness the potential that using Twitter as a microblog presents. Additionally, my microblogging has been a beneficial extension of this blog, allowing me to discuss similar topics, gather information and share my posts to my followers.

Header image by Chloe D’Costa.

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