Social media for journalists: Part one – Twitter for beginners


These notes are extracted from a talk given to the Guild of Health Journalists on 14th September 2011. If you’re interested in this subject then you might want to also have a read of the post about 10 things Twitter can do for journalists.

We started with some general points about using social media:

  • It’s a conversation, not a broadcast
    Don’t just pump out updates –  talk to people, jump into conversations, retweet their messages and see it as a two way flow.
  • Look for personal connections and work will find you
    If you go in explicitly and solely looking for work, you’ll probably be disappointed. See it as a source of new contacts and ideas and the opportunities will occur.
  • Use your own name – that’s your brand
    As a journalist, your byline is your brand, so don’t tweet as your dog or your porn star name. The exception to this would be if you have a blog with an established name, in which case you might want to create a specific Twitter account just for that.
  • Keep your photo consistent
    It’s all about establishing you as a human being that other human beings will want to connect to and work with, so use the same photo across all social media and don’t change it more than twice a year. Using the Hipstamatic App will produce the most flattering photo you’ve ever had.
  • will track your progress
    If you like statistics, Klout will track how your social media network and influence is growing – useful if you’re worried that you’re wasting your time.


Then we moved on to look at Twitter in more detail:

What Twitter can do for journalists:

  • Attract more work & be a source of work in itself
    Clients may hire you to run their Twitter stream, or you may simply follow the job requests you see. As the paid media job ads market falters, great jobs are circulating on Twitter every day.

    Social connections for solo workers
    I like working by myself, but if all you do is talk to yourself it’s not exactly a recipe for sanity. Sometimes that buzz of conversation can really lift your day.
  • Find case studies and interviewees – use #journorequest
    Put the symbol # (hash) in front of any word and it becomes a hashtag or label. Use this label for any work requests and add ‘Please RT’ – all it takes is a few people to retweet your message and pretty soon it’ll be seen by thousands. 
  • Get to know editors and anyone you’d like to work with
    Just because they’ve been ignoring your pitches is no reason not to stalk them and find out what they’ve had for lunch.
  • Sound out issues for potential pitches
    Sometimes when you throw out a question it can be a real revelation as to what’s a genuine topic that’s of interest to people, and what’s really only of interest to you.

Who to follow on Twitter:

  • Anyone you’ve worked with in the past and want to work with again
    It’s a more personal way to reconnect and make sure your name is familiar when you pitch again. Plus it’s nice to keep in touch and continue a connection that’s already started.
  • Other journalists in your sector
    See colleagues as allies rather than competitors. Plus if you can see who they’re writing for, you’ll know who’s hiring *sneaky*
  • @IPCmediajobs @journalismjobs @MediaWomenUK
    All regularly tweet job media job news. Individual editors will also do shout outs if they’re looking for somebody to write about a particular topic.
  • PRs in your sector (be selective though)
    Boy, do the PRs love Twitter. And once you say you’re a journalist in your profile, you’ll probably find them flocking to follow you. Don’t feel you have to follow them all back – chose the ones you have most rapport with.
  • News outlets (especially overseas)
    Looking at overseas stories is a great way to get ideas that you can pitch to UK markets, so following the obscure, Daily Diddly type of outlets can be a real source of inspiration.
  • Anyone you find interesting
    Think of it like a big pub with lots of conversations going on at once. There are 100 million people on there, there’s bound to be someone you like. Celebrities on Twitter are often dull and barely literate, so bodyswerve them unless they’re relevant to your work.

In the next post, I’ll be giving tips on using other types of social media including Facebook, LinkedIn and forums to help you get work as a journalist. And the final post will be about what kind of job opportunities are available in social media for journalists, and how to stop social media sucking up all your time. Assuming I get time to post it, that is, in between all the tweeting.


Find out more about hiring Joanne as your media career coach at this link


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.