By Paula Wethington
Do you need to feed your Twitter stream with a certain number of posts a day to meet a newsroom requirement or just populate the feed?
This is not as challenging as it might seem. One of the tactics that has contributed to my success on Twitter both on my accounts and the newsroom accounts I manage is in mixing up content formats. It seems to get the best response in terms of likes or retweets from real people, as compared to those accounts whose house rules call for a photo with every tweet or a link with every tweet.
Why? A mix of content styles is how real people talk. Therefore, it looks like a real person is running your Twitter account when you mix the content formats.
Here are some easy content ideas for inspiration and application, whether you run the newsroom account or run a reporter / editor / on air personality account:
- The headline post. Tried and true, it’s the most common of all news Tweets. There’s nothing wrong with this format, as long as it is not your only content choice. Otherwise, your Twitter stream looks like an RSS feed.
- The score. There’s nothing more official than a favorite team’s or athlete’s winning score posted very official-like on a news account. Post the teams and scores or winner’s name just as a closely watched game or race ends, and engagement numbers will skyrocket as fans retweet in joy. I’ve seen it.
- The breaking news alert. Post “BREAKING:” along with your headline, perhaps with “details coming soon” and people will learn you’re on the story.
- The developing story alert. If you are following a breaking news story that has new details, then post “DEVELOPING:” or “UPDATE:” with a link to the latest version of the story or the latest information you received.
- The verification in progress tweet. It is all too common during breaking news for rumors to spread faster than journalists can confirm. I saw this happen via word of mouth in the 1980s, and it happens on social media today. If you are receiving a lot of questions via social media on information you haven’t confirmed yet, you can reply with something along the lines of “we will post only what we can confirm.” Even a simple “stand by” message can be appropriate as I learned during a breaking news situation a few years ago. That was enough to answer a flood of questions when we had just received the answers the readers wanted, but the website needed a couple of minutes to refresh.
- The ICYMI tweet. ICYMI means “in case you missed it.” That acronym is a perfect introduction for a story that you’d like to tweet again later in the day or on the next news cycle. Fans will realize with that phrase you are not intending to annoy them with repeat content but to reach anyone who, well, “missed it” the first time. Pro tip: Do a slight rewrite on the tweet as compared to the first one.
- The “from the archives” tweet. This is similar to ICYMI but applicable to an article or photo you’re re-using from a year or more back. Think #ThrowbackThursday.
- The backchannel chatter. This is a typical conversation style during live events such as sports games, awards programs and even the State of the Union address. A good comparison is the “color commentary” conversations. During a show, backchannel conversations might include red carpet fashion discussions, what song the band played during the commercial break, critiques of bad referee calls, keeping score on favorite phrases (or how many times someone does …), or something that happened backstage.
- The reply. Is someone tagging your account with a question or comment? If the tweet deserves a reply, send one, even if it is “thanks for the tip.”
- The mention. If one of your article’s sources is on Twitter, then consider including a mention of their screen name when posting the article link or a Storify roundup. On a similar note, the longstanding #FollowFriday tradition on Twitter is a way to introduce your followers to each other via a series of mentions.
- The source call out. Would you like to ask for sources on an article or project? Twitter content streams move fast, so you want to time this carefully and to the right audience. But it can be done. For example, I’ve seen chat hosts end sessions inviting participants to post one tweet about their current project or “in search of.”
- The retweet. Did one of your stories get tweeted on your newsroom account? Did one of your co-workers have an interesting tweet? Did a client or source have something worth sharing with your audience? While curated content is a great resource, I have seen some accounts overdo it to the point that retweets outnumber original content. Use the retweet with specific intent and for a specific reason.
- The “quote tweet.” Choose this format instead of a retweet to add text that shows why you are interested or why your audience should care. In a “quote tweet” format, the original tweet remains while followers also see your introduction or commentary.
- The photo tweet. The most popular image tweets on the newsroom accounts I manage have included local landscapes that show the seasons or weather such as a foggy morning along the river front. They stand alone with a cutline that says when and where it was taken. Another possibility: post an archive photo that people might not recognize right away and ask them to chime in with where and when the photo was taken.
- The selfie. Be mindful, as I’ve read on a TV news industry blog, as to whether it is appropriate to take and tweet a self portrait at certain news scenes. It may not be the time and place. But there’s nothing wrong with a selfie at your work station or in the newsroom on occasions when a behind the scenes peek or a wave to your followers can provide an interesting and pleasant diversion.
- The photo gallery tweet. Twitter lets you include up to four images in one tweet. I’m far more likely to set up a gallery tweet than post four tweets in a row each with one picture.
- The photo gallery link. Do you have a MyCapture or SmugMug gallery to show off? Tweet a link with an introduction of “PHOTO GALLERY:” and the topic.
- The Instagram link. This is how you get around Instagram photos not appearing as “native” images on Twitter. First, save the Instagram picture to your camera roll. Then go to Instagram and copy the link. Now upload the photo and then in the text that goes with your photo include the link along with the hashtag #Instagram. People will see the picture AND can find it on Instagram.
- The screen shot. This is how I get a severe weather map from the National Weather Service on our newsroom Twitters: take a screen shot of the map, save to camera roll, crop as needed, then upload it and credit it. A Department of Transportation traffic map is another legitimate use of the screen shot during breaking news.
- The Twitter poll. Even if your newsroom uses a specific poll or quiz format on your website or another network, you can use Twitter polls to interact with that audience specifically. Keep the Twitter poll questions and answers short, and in tune with your audience’s interests or conversation of the day. Pro tip: pin the poll as a pinned tweet during its duration, and post a screen shot of the results.
- The visual tweet. You can use Canva or any graphics software to create simple graphics to post as you would a photo tweet. A good example is seen on NASCAR accounts where Yellow Flag, Red Flag and Checkered Flag alerts are tweeted in real time as images with the race day hashtag.
- The visual quote. A variation of the visual tweet, the content is text rather than a photo. One application is a quote from the story you are linking to in the tweet. Another application seen on corporate brand accounts is inspirational quotes from someone the audience admires or would find interesting. Visual quotes are built in Canva or a graphics software program.
- The video link. Periscope, YouTube and Vine are among the video applications whose content you can promote via Twitter. But you can also post short video clips as native uploads to Twitter, which is a good reason as any to save Periscope live streams to your camera roll.
- The Twitter list. Did you curate a list on a topic that your followers are interested in? Go to the list, copy the link, and tweet that out with an explanation.
- Promote your other social media. If your automated links are from Facebook and your auto direct messages are to your LinkedIn, well, people know where to find you on those accounts. But perhaps they didn’t know you are on Pinterest. Tweet out your favorite pins from time to time.
- Promote your core product. Radio personalities have long promoted interviews from studio guests on air and on social media. Even if you don’t tune in at 8:15 a.m. the next day, you know so and so will be the featured interview on the morning show and perhaps another time you will listen. You can adapt that idea to the print format. I pick out anywhere from one to three stories a day from our newspaper to promote on Twitter with “Read about that on page 1A of today’s…” or “take a look at page 3B of today’s …”
- Promote an upcoming event. If you have an events calendar to pull from, that’s even more content you can add to a newsroom Twitter mix. Community calendar entries are particularly suitable for scheduled content programming.
I’m a reporter and newsroom social media team member in Monroe, Mich. Follow me on Twitter at @WethingtonPaula