5 cardinal rules of interacting with journalists and influencers on Twitter

Sep 25, 2014
5 cardinal rules of interacting with journalists and influencers on Twitter

A recent study from the School of Journalism at Indiana University shows just how much Twitter has become a driving force in the news we consume.

More than half of the journalists surveyed said they use microblogs like Twitter for collecting information and reporting. Forty percent of journalists responded that social media is very important to their work.

Journalist use Twitter to learn about breaking news, check out the competition, gather story ideas, keep in touch with their audience and more.

So what are the cardinal rules for interacting with opinion leaders and journalist on Twitter?

Understand the Platform

Perhaps this is best explained with pizza. In light of the NFL’s Ray Rice scandal, Twitter users took to the site to share their experiences with domestic violence under the hashtag #WhyIStayed.  The social media folks at DiGiorno saw the phrase was trending, so put out their own tweet:

Because the person or people managing the DiGiorno Twitter account didn’t understand the movement behind #WhyIStayed, they created a firestorm of negative publicity by seemingly trivializing domestic violence.

But DiGiorno isn’t alone. Plenty of companies and individuals (and politicians) have misused Twitter to the detriment of their brand or career. Do you know the difference between a DM and an RT? Did you pick a professional Twitter handle, or are you using one from your metal head phase? Do you know how to track trending topics and hashtags? Spend some time learning Twitter before you reach out to influencers and reporters.

Build a Relationship

If you want to be seen as a trusted source, you have to first earn trust. This happens through repeated interactions, not after one random tweet. Follow the reporters that cover your beat and other opinion leaders and influencers in your community or field.

Review their feeds and pay attention to what they are tweeting. Interact with them by replying, sharing and favorite their tweets. Monitoring these tweets takes time, but most of the time if you invest time and interest in them they will be more open to listening to you.

Retweet or favorite tweets from reporters and influencers will show that you are engaged and knowledgeable. But make sure the road you travel on Twitter is a two way street. Resist the urge to only tweet with request or ideas, instead, offer kudos by tagging them in a congratulatory tweet that links back to their story.

Don’t Make Demands

Not every pitch is pursued and not every tweet that you think is supremely insightful will go viral. So if a tagged opinion leader doesn’t retweet your message or a pitch to a reporter falls on seemingly deaf Twitter ears, don’t follow up with a demand for a response.

Instead, evaluate your communication. Perhaps the old excuse “It’s not you, it’s me” applies here. Was it off topic? Did you try to reach them while they were live tweeting from another event? Was your link relevant? Did you make a request of an opinion leader in your very first tweet to them? Learn from the silence or “no” answers by tweeting smarter in the future.

Set a Standard for your Feed

When you reach out to reporters or influencers, chances are they will check out your feed before responding. So think critically about what you want your feed to convey. Is it an official account of your business, with no personal names attached? Are you tweeting as a spokesperson and adding personal tweets as well? Do you keep a light, witty tone or is strictly professional? Have you updated the profile and background photos?

Step out from behind the company profile and tweeting as a human being – share light personal tweets (nothing controversial) to show the Twitterverse that you are a human, not a robot. Even the President of the United States tweeted about the release of the Netflix show House of Cards:

Of course, the presidential Twitter feed also tweets about very important policy decisions and current events, but adding a bit of levity shows personality as well.

Move the Conversation to Email and Phone When Necessary

Twitter is a great way to reach out to a reporter with initial story ideas but you should email or call with more details if the journalist or influencers expresses interest. There are some things that are best discussed face-to-face or through a phone call or email. In fact, these types of interactions will set you apart from those who only communicate via Twitter.

Also, if you need to offer a correction to a story, do it via email or over the phone.

Reporters and influencers on Twitter create a great opportunity for your brand.  You can reach out to opinion leaders with ease and success by following these cardinal rules.

What are your recommendations about communicating via Twitter? Leave your advice and success stories in the comment section.

Photo: Image from "The American Journalist in the Digital Age" study from Indiana University

About the author

Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for http://www.webpagefx.com and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land.

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