Three lessons about Twitter/microblogging

Amy Gahran is learning about microblogging the Total Community Coverage in Cyberspace (some interesting reflections – well worth reading), which gave me a perfect reminder to finally publish a post I wrote in draft form a month or so back. So, for what it’s worth, here are three lessons I’ve learned about Twittering:

  1. Keep to a niche. If blogs are about niches, microblogging is about microniches. If you’re expecting people to put up with constant updates it’s got to be very specific. So, think Madeleine McCann, not ‘news headlines‘.
  2. Link to mobile-friendly pages if you can. When I get my Twitter updates from Press Gazette on my mobile phone and ‘click’ on the link, I get a very large designed-for-the-monitor page that I have to scroll down and across to read. I long ago stopped clicking on those links. If you’re giving tasters of your stories to people who may be viewing on their phones, you’re going to frustrate them if the full linked-to versions don’t use liquid designs or mobile stylesheets.
  3. Be part of the conversation. Martin Stabe has 114 followers; the publication he writes for has 66. Maybe it’s because Martin follows 92 other twitterers, whereas his publication (yes, Press Gazette again) only follows two (both members of staff).

17 thoughts on “Three lessons about Twitter/microblogging

  1. Martin

    Don’t read too much into the lack of people pressgazette follows. It’s very much part of a conversation.

    The pressgazette twitter feed is controlled by me — actually it’s just an automated RSS-to-Twitter feed run through Twitterfeed.

    When people follow the pressgazette feed, Patrick (psmith) or I (martinstabe) often end up following them. People talk to people, not faceless institutions.

    We don’t do any manual updating of that feed at the moment, but that may change in the future.

    Point taken about the mobile-friendly site, though. The site degrades quite well to something usable on most of the phones that I’ve seen it on. Which phone do you use? I’ll look into it.

  2. Mary Ann Chick Whiteside

    I have like Twitter as a quick breakdown of new sites to see on the web.

    Also used twice now for conference coverage. It is better then summary coverage as I get so much more detail.

    I do expect different Tweets from different sources. But I like the mix of Tweets I get by flowing everything into mcwflint.

  3. yonigre

    I just wanted to respond to Martin’s comment about pushing headlines and static stories. I think you can effectively use twitter to share your content and engage readers, but the typical approach of just pushing an rss feed through feedster, for example, an result in your followers getting upwards of 10 stories (depending on your rss stories). I think that type of bulk delivery, instead of engaging readers, actually turns them off. There almost seems to be a need for some type of suggested twitter edict.

    Don’t get me wrong though, I’m a big fan of twitter for news organizations see my recent blog post: Oprah endorses Obama, my vote’s for Twitter

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  5. Ryan Sholin

    As far as how news orgs can use Twitter in a social way, how about assigning a producer to Tweet when there’s a new poll, or a story with a busy comment thread, or a multimedia piece?

    Certainly more labor intensive than a headline feed, but more chance of drawing interactive readers into interactive content.

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  7. Mary Ann Chick Whiteside

    A couple of ideas that I think I’d like to try on Twiitter to engage readers:
    – Ask people to twitter in the deals they find on Black Friday, the big shopping day after Thanksgiving in the United States. Of course, I’d really like them to Twitter in information like “No one in line at Best Buy,” or “Big bargain at Michaels over as no trees left.” or Macy’s at Courtland just put out 100 new 50% off purses.”

    — For a big event, or maybe just tickets for a concert, ask people to Twitter in when there are no tickets left, or how many people are in line at one spot. Could this work for parking at a big event? A Twitter telling me parking lot A is full could save me time

    — I can see someone Twittering play by play from a golf event like the Buick Open in our area. (Parking twitter would be a big help for this one.). Folks could Twitter back who they want to know the score for.

    –I’d love Twitters on traffic. Except I’m not sure that I want to encourage folks who are driving to send Twitters or to read Twitters, now that I think about it. Maybe we could restrict them to accidents and traffic jams 🙂

  8. Craig McGill

    Good points – especially the one about mobiles – but how many people find they have the time to actually sort out a mobile specific site, especially when phones now have decent sized screens and also allow for shrinkage of sites but still stay relatively readable?

  9. johncthompson

    I never use Twitter on my phone – when I did it drove me insane and flattened my battery in about two hours.

    Instead, I use a desktop application called Twitterific which means I only ever see Twitters when I am online and working, and I get some peace in my leisure hours.

    Also, if I follow a link, I get to view it in a browser, not on my phone. Although I can view both my site and the PG’s just fine on my Nokia N95.

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