First images of the Hudson River aircrash: posted by a Twitter user. Eyewitness reports of the Mumbai bombings: posted by Twitter users. Real-time chatter about local news events, from what happened when the power went out on one of the coldest days in January in Toronto to on-the-ground reports from a December coal ash spill in Tennessee: posted by Twitter users.
I’ll admit that I was a Twitter skeptic. When my colleague Lisa Murphy suggested I sign on last October, I rolled my eyes. What possible value could I find—or communicate—in 140-character micro-blogging posts? And wasn’t this just going to be another time-sucking procrastination-enabler? (Well, yes it can be, but more on that later.)
But because I respect Lisa’s opinion, I signed on (twitter.com/kimpittaway). And the skeptic became a convert. I’ve used Twitter to watch news events unfold in real time (and heard about news events before they’ve appeared on newscasts, in print—or even on news organization web sites). I’ve followed posts to background articles I’d never have seen otherwise. I’ve made connections with colleagues I knew only vaguely—or not at all—both here in Toronto and abroad. All 140 characters at a time.
I’m willing to bet, though, that you won’t believe it unless you try it yourself.
Here are my tips for getting the most out of the experience.
And in the spirit of Twitter, check out these links to other Twitter advice and resources:
Tinyurl.com—Translates that 50-character URL into a shorter one, so you have more room in your post for words.
Twitpic.com—Lets you upload and share pictures through Twitter (as the Hudson crash photographer did)
TweetDeck.com—Allows you to organize your Twitter feeds by category (so you can keep your social networking pros from your foodies)
Mashable.com article on a Twitter app database
Tennessee Coal Ash Spill: Who’s Covering It—or Not? by Amy Gahran at PoynterOnline: A case study in using hashtags to track a local story
Networked Link Journalism: A Revolution Quietly Begins in Washington State, on Publishing 2.0: A case study in how multiple news organizations worked together to follow a breaking story using Twitter.
Twitter to Journalists: Here’s How It’s Done, on East Sleep Publish
JournoTweeting, by Ellyn Angelotti at PoynterOnline
News Tricks: 10 Tips for Tweeting as Your News Organization, on OldMediaNewTricks.com
Advice on creating a “tweet plan” from TwiTip
Kim Pittaway is a Toronto-based magazine writer
and editor. Her Twitter address is twitter.com/kimpittaway.