10 things Twitter can do for journalists


It seems like every media bod I know has put “Get to grips with Twitter” at the top of their To Do list for this year.twitter image

So looking back at over several years on Twitter @joannemallon, and with the help of the hive wisdom of the members of MediaWomenUK , here are 10 things that Twitter can do for journalists and other media professionals:

  1. Find them work
    This isn’t just a myth. I’ve spoken to enough journalists who’ve found work via Twitter, and experienced it myself, to know that people really are finding writing jobs, and jobs are finding them. For example, one night at 10.30pm an editor I follow tweeted that they were looking for anyone who could write about toys. I do lots of this, so I jumped on it like a tramp on chips, and the result was a commission for Tesco Magazine.
    Travel journalist Abi King @abigailking says that she’s picked up extra commissions by letting her Twitter followers know where in the world she is, and where she plans to go next.
  2. Provide social connections and a sense of buzz when you’re working home alone
    Or as one freelancer put it to me “It can stop you going mad”. Well maybe, though I think you might be over-estimating the power of the tweet there mate. But it is definitely useful for making social connections and acting as an online introduction, so it’s easier to chat when you meet in real life.
  3. Suck up all their time
    Watch out that Twitter doesn’t become yet another procrastination device. It’s such a whirl of ever-changing energy that it’s very hard not to get sucked in. Keep reminding yourself that you don’t have to click on every interesting looking link you see. There will always be more monkeys on pigs to look at later.
  4. Save you time
    Conversely, if you’re clever about it you can use Twitter to save you time as well. If you’re researching an issue, Twitter can give you a quick snapshot of what a wide group of people are saying. Just don’t use it as your Bible and make sure you also solicit opinions elsewhere.
  5. Make them feel inadequate
    Follow some people and you could be forgiven for thinking that everyone is having the most delightful, sexy, successful time ever. This is your red flag warning that you’re following the wrong people. Unfollowing someone on Twitter is much less fraught than defriending them on Facebook, so don’t be afraid to chop and change the people you’re following until you find a mix that works for you.
  6. Find case studies
    Use the hashtag #journorequest (started by @SarahEwing and now widely used) and people will retweet your request. Journalists tell me that even quite obscure case studies are being found relatively easily using this method.
  7. Provide new skills
    Tweeting on behalf of a business is a new writing job which many people are now being paid to do. So if you want to be in with a shot at jobs like that, the best way to prove you can do it is to start tweeting from your own account.
    And for other jobs, tweeting is now regarded as a necessary skill. For example, the writers at parenting site Ready for Ten all have dedicated Twitter accounts which they use to support the site’s content. If as part of your next writing job you were expected to tweet as well, wouldn’t it help if you’d already been doing it?
  8. Connect them with PRs
    Because we just love talking to PRs, don’t we hacks? The PR sector is quite well represented on Twitter, and if you state on your profile that you’re a journalist then many of them will start to follow you. And this makes it easy when you want to do a shout out for information on products or brands. So when I was writing about advent calendars last year, I mentioned this in a tweet, and it turns out they make advent calendars for dogs. Wowsers. Who knew?
  9. Pimp your stuff
    Hey, we’ve all got to eat. As long as it’s not all you do, it’s fine to link to your latest work or blog post. You can even link to them more than once, just stop well before you feel your inner spam alert rising.
  10. Provide a creative outlet
    It’s underrated, but I think there’s a lot to be said for the mental challenge of coming up with something interesting in 140 characters or less. And since there are no real rules of Twitter, you can make your own up.
    I have created two hashtags (so far only used by me, but every trend has to start somewhere): #boggles is for when I see something amazing but hard to understand (like a pigeon eating a slice of ham whilst simultaneously walking and crapping), #kudos is for something so amazing I wish to send it good vibes (like a woman dressed all in green with green hair as well). Very occasionally, I will spot something worthy of #kudos and #boggles. Well, it amuses me.

So what does Twitter do for you? And what do you do for Twitter?

pic: Flickr user – Andreia

UPDATE – April 2015

Since I wrote this post, I went on to write a book about using Twitter (and other social media) for journalists and writers. Social Media for Writers has now been published and is attracting some great reviews – click on the image to see them for yourself. 


  • I’ve found it brilliant for tracking down case studies around the world, and have found out all sorts of useful bits of information and ideas. Do find the time issue tricky though. I’m @pcarswell in case anyone wants to follow me.

  • Twitter found me an amazing case study – I was seriously struggling to find a visual artist for an arts funding piece and someone retweeted my desperate tweet, and then someone else (who I didn’t know) saw it, passed it on to their partner, who put me in touch with a visual artist perfect for the piece!

  • @Patricia – Yes that’s a good point that it can connect you with people far and wide. I deal with the time issue by not having it on in the background all the time. I know Tweetdeck is very popular, but I prefer to have to physically crank up the Twitter site, which I choose to do as a break between work throughout the day. Just putting that little stumbling block in my way stops me getting too sucked in too often.

    @Mzendle – Thanks for your comment Miriam, lovely to hear about it working like that

    @Devremuikler – Thank you! Planning to post again soon so watch this space…

  • Christine Michael

    Very entertaining and useful post Joanne, thank you! As I’m prone to your point 3, I’ve rationed myself a bit on Twitter in 2011. But I find it useful in all the ways you mention too; promoting posts on my blog, http://www.diabeteschoices.org.uk, regularly attracts new visitors.

  • Also important is how Twitter is helpful for non journalist users to be able to easily connect with journalists and tell them about things which they otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

  • @Christine – Thanks for your comment. I think if you are careful with your time then it can be really useful

    @Kathy – That’s the spirit!

    @Life Coaching – that’s a good point, I think it makes all sorts of people more accessible than ever

  • Abi

    A really useful summary…I think, though, that the opposite of number five is also true. Particularly if you work freelance, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’re the only one grappling with a certain set of problems. Following similar people on Twitter can provide a bit of extra reassurance: OK, everyone has days like this…

  • oh yes good point Abi, thanks for your comment