For years I despised Twitter, I thought it was trivial and annoying at best. Perhaps I was exposed to one, or twenty, too many Twitter accounts run by angst filled teenagers. Whatever the reason, I would have nothing to do with it. The first nod I was willing to give to Twitter was that is is a good source for news updates. Give me a headline and a link to the full article and I’m happy. Still, I didn’t see why I should dive into the Twittersphere.
Early this semester, for my Principles and History of Journalism class (JMC110), I needed to create a Twitter account as part of an assignment. Rolling my eyes, I signed up…and let my new account begin to gather dust on the figurative shelves of the internet. Until, that is, a lecture in my JMC110 class about social media. Two lectures, actually. The first by a fellow Cronkite student, Matt Culbertson, and the second by an ASU professor, Dr. Gilpin.
Matt spoke briefly about topics such as Facebook privacy settings (friends only!), and creating a LinkedIn account, but what I really came away with was his advice for using Twitter. Using his advice, along with some added notes from Dr. Gilpin’s lecture, and some of my own discoveries, I compiled a set of principles and guidelines for using Twitter as a journalism student. Yes, I fully appreciate the irony of me, a Twitter newbie, writing a guide for how to use Twitter….so take this with a grain of salt.
Twitter for Journalism Students 101
Getting Started – don’t be shy
Google “Journalism student + Twitter.” With this search I didn’t find many journalism students, but I found a blog post listing the 10 Twitter users that every journalism student should follow. I followed all on the list. Then I went to Twitter and started searching for the professors who had guest lectured in JMC110. To name a few, I found @drgilpin, @timmcguire, and @DrBillASU, among others. After I followed them, I went through who was following them and started adding anyone who I saw had something to do with the Cronkite School. Did it feel over the top? Yes, but it was all in the name of networking. At some point, Matt added me to a Journalism Students Twitter list, which opened up a lot of access because these aren’t just students at Cronkite, but around the world. In the process of following 83% of journalism students world wide (perhaps I exaggerate), my path would diverge and I would discover other accounts connected to journalism: professional reporters, ASU alumni, politicians, news sources, and more. A word of advice from the lecture was to follow ‘everyone,’ with the knowledge that you can always unfollow people if they don’t follow you back or you find their Tweets annoying (I added the part about annoying Tweets.)
Maintenance – it’s (mostly) all about you!
Use the fact that you now have an audience – share links to your work as a journalist. Share links/news clips/original text pertinent to your studies, journalism/media, and whatever niche interests you have (for me it’s sports, food, design, and poetry. Also occasional bits of overheard conversations. It’s not eavesdropping if you’re a journalist.) Use Twitter to connect to your classmates and other journalism students.
Since using Twitter as a journalism student is all about building a credible presence, I would highly advise avoiding TMI Tweets. I’m not saying to hide who you are – your humanity is what will bring people back to your stream, but no one needs to know about things such as your bowel movements. Something else to avoid is detailed complaining. Dr. Gilpin shared with the class the cautionary tale of the Cisco Fatty. In brief, a job offer was rescinded after a woman Tweeted her strong dislike of the work while directly mentioning the company.
The main thing to remember is that you’re representing yourself as a person and as a journalist, and as the old saying goes, you want to put your best foot forward.
So now, as the title implies, I have had to go back on some sweeping statements I made in the past. No, Twitter isn’t stupid or worthless. In fact, in the short time I have been active on Twitter, I have already had many enjoyable and informative encounters with people in the journalism community at all levels. That said, I still blush a little on the inside when I say “Twittersphere” or “Tweep.”
Would it have benefited me to have begun Tweeting a few years ago? I highly doubt it (and I have spared the world my 13-year-old rants), but in this season of my life Twitter is an excellent tool to use as I begin my foray into the journalism community.