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Monday, November 14, 2011

News Organizations Don't Know How to Use Twitter Efficiently

Most people know that in order to gain followers and exposure on Twitter you have to do more than post links and promote yourself. Apparently, most news organizations do not know this.

According to a recent Pew study, most news organizations (TV broadcast networks and newspapers) use Twitter primarily for posting their own links instead of retweeting or asking for input from followers. Pew studied the tweets of six newspapers, five broadcast networks, and two websites for a week. Most tweets were primarily self-serving, but some of them shone above the rest. Fox News blazed ahead of the pack with 44 percent of its tweets being retweets, and gaining the biggest percentage of followers. But Fox seems to be the exception to the rule. The New York Times, on the other hand, a highly-regarded publication, really seems oblivious about how to use Twitter efficiently. Although it gained a follower percentage of 30, the NY Times had all original tweets.

In other words, most news organizations use Twitter "as a glorified RSS feed," as Megan Garber from Nieman Journalism Lab says. Although the sample from the Pew study was small, it did include major and recognizable news organizations that should know how to use media efficiently. Evidently, although some organizations like Fox are reaching out with their Twitter usage, the vast majority (93 percent) of tweets from the week studied were original, self-promoting tweets. Most news organizations' main goal is to redirect people to their website where they will hopefully click around. 

News organizations need to learn that simply tweeting a headline and posting a link is not going to be enough to attract loyal followers. Before signing in to Twitter, publications, broadcast networks, and news websites should stop and ask themselves: "In this tweet, how are we going to answer the consumers' question 'Why should I care?'" Of course, there will be certain topics that readers will always care about and will thus click on the link, but news organizations have to do more.

By retweeting other organizations' and followers' tweets,  news organizations can build relationships with colleagues and readers. Hashtagging is another benefit because it directs people to other tweets talking about similar topics and also can help categorize tweets. News organizations that ask followers to tweet at them tend to have more followers since there is more interaction. Organizations might even dare to link to other news websites besides their own.

It is possible, as Garber explains, that the news organizations studied may just be using Twitter in ways that were not included in the Pew research. She points out that radio news often read followers' tweets on air, and that individual journalists may have different Twitter habits than organizations. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that news bigwigs like the NY Times have to get their act together when it comes to tweeting.

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