5 ways journalists actually use Twitter to source stories

5 ways journalists actually use Twitter to source stories

Twitter secrets from a Thrillist senior editor.

I’ve fired off three tweets in the last 12 days. Three. And yet, I’m on Twitter constantly.

I have FIFTEEN active columns on TweetDeck. At any one time I have a DOZEN Twitter app push alerts on my locked phone. I probably spend more time crawling through Twitter day-to-day than I do watching TMNT trailers and I spend a LOT of time watching those.

So what the hell am I doing and how do I source stories without even tweeting all that much? Well, these 5 things:

1. Tweeting(!), just not from my personal account. As a senior editor at Thrillist, I oversee our biggest four editions: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, but since I live in the Bay Area I’m constantly tweeting stuff from our @ThrillistSF handle, whether it’s something we couldn’t cover in full (too late event, random Nerf guns sent to the office, tour of the Niners’ new stadium), teaser pics for an upcoming story or random awesome stuff that we see before anyone else, like, say, this:

That giant slip 'n slide we told you about in Potrero? Here's the video they used it for: https://t.co/g0z3GmV2bH @LiveBearNaked #SF

— Thrillist SF (@ThrillistSF) July 14, 2014

2. Doing geo-targeted searches for awesome stuff. Type this into the Twitter search bar at the top -- bar opening near:"san francisco" within:25mi -- and what you’ll get is any mention of the words “bar” and “opening” in a tweet that was tweeted within a 25-mile radius of San Francisco. Hands down one of the coolest tricks on Twitter, and an incredible way to suss out bar/restaurant openings way before anyone knows they’re coming. It also allows you to regionalize Twitter in a pretty cool way.

3. Hashtag crawling. If you aren’t including hashtags in your tweets, you’re doing something wrong. I follow over 2,000 people, which means I only see snippets of what those people are saying in my feed any given day, but when it comes to hashtags that matter to us, I scroll through ALL OF THEM, whether it’s #sfmuni or #bart or #burningman or #saas (software as a service).

4. Favoriting someone’s tweets until they follow me back. We want to write about a brand new whiskey, but there’s no contact info for them anywhere. On. The Internet. There is, however, a fledgling Twitter account -- the move here is I’ll favorite every single one of their tweets until they notice me and follow back. Then I’ll direct message them and get the scoop on the whiskey without anyone ever noticing we were pursuing the story. Geen. Yus.

5. Responding to all of my @ replies. This one I’ll never understand. I get 1,000 emails a day. One. Thousand. ONE. THOUSAND. Why compete with those 999 other emailers when you could shoot me a tweet and compete with nine other people? A zillion times out of a zillion I’ll reply back on Twitter, and here’s why: being forced to distill a pitch down to 140 characters or less is the ultimate PR exercise. It forces PR pros to cut all of the crap (fake quotes from execs, “Hi there, how was your weekend?”, 33 picture attachments nobody could possibly want), and get to the nut of why I should care. I’ve yet to get a PR pitch on Twitter I didn’t respond to. Meanwhile, I have 53,000 unread emails that I didn’t open after seeing the email subject and 8-word email preview.

Grant Marek is a Senior Editor at Thrillist and oversees the brand’s largest four city editions: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. Pitch him burgers, whiskey, and other generally awesome stuff via email at grant@thrillist.com, or definitely don’t do that and instead pitch him on Twitter at @grant_marek.

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