If you’re still intimidated by Twitter, consider this: It’s a lot like that unassuming police scanner sitting on your desk.
Though the information is transmitted through the Web instead of a dusty black box, the concept at its core is very similar.
“It’s a tip that gets you guys running in the right direction,” said Victor Hernandez, director of coverage for CNN.
According to its Web site, Twitter.com, Twitter “is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?” As its core, it’s like a sticky note stuck on a fridge — a simple status update to let people know what you’re doing, a quick thought, a reminder.
Hernandez spoke during a session about social networks and journalism at the 2008 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference in Atlanta.
Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and other social media are quickly working their way into the reporter’s toolkit. During the Republican National Convention in early September, journalists monitored the Twitterverse to keep track of what has happening with the various protests and raids around St. Paul.
Despite the utility of Twitter and other social media tools, not as many journalists are using it as there should be, Hernandez said. That’s a mistake.
“Everyone should have an interest in social media,” he said.
In recent months, the Twittering crowd at CNN has exploded from 25 people to about 150, Hernandez said. Even anchors on the station Tweet while they’re on air.
“Today it’s a part of everyone’s lives, and not just the geeks,” Hernandez said.
But monitoring Tweets online or with your BlackBerry is only the beginning. You can also use the Twitterverse to find sources or ideas. Send out a query in a Tweet and see what happens, suggests Wright Bryan, social media producer for National Public Radio, who also spoke during the social networking session in Atlanta.
NPR’s All Songs Considered used social media (Wright said he couldn’t remember if it was Twitter or something else) when it wanted to know what bands people were listening to that they didn’t want others to know about for fear that the band would become too popular.
“We got an avalanche of content for that story,” Bryan said.
But don’t expect Twitter to solve all of your sourcing challenges right away. Before they can expect to get anything from Twitter, reporters should become part of the Twitterverse by sending out multiple Tweets a day and engaging with others.
“It takes developing a relationship with the audience to get anything out of the audience that’s useful,” Bryan said. “The only way to be successful is to be active.”[b]New Tech Tips
for more tips.
1. Get connected: Social networking sites
LinkedIn.com: “MySpace for Professionals” strengthens and extends your existing network of trusted contacts.
Facebook: An online directory that connects people.
Twitter.com: Social networking and microblogging service utilizing instant messaging, SMS or a Web interface.
FriendFeed.com: Allows you to build a customized feed of made up of content your friends on other collaborative sites have shared.
2. Better browsing
Firefox: The Firefox Web Browser is the faster, more secure and fully customizable way to surf the web.
Camino: Camino is a Mac OS X-native browser built on Mozilla’s Gecko rendering engine.
Flock: Built on Mozilla’s Firefox, Flock enables you to instantly upload photos and share photos and videos by drag-n-drop.
3. Online photo and video editing
SnipShot.com: No download necessary for one-click enhancing that improves most images through basic editing tools (such as crop, rotate, resize) and basic image adjustments (such as contrast, brightness, saturation, sharpness, hue).
Picnik.com: Picnik makes your photos fabulous with easy-to-use yet powerful editing tools.
Photoshop.com: Photoshop Express is your online photo sharing and editing resource. Upload, tweak, rotate, edit, share and store your photos.
Jumpcut.com: Upload your media, grab shared media, create and remix movies, publish to your friends, share with the world.
4. Citizen broadcasting
BlogTalkRadio.com: BlogTalkRadio allows users to create free online radio stations and listen to thousands of original Internet radio shows.
LiveVideo.com: Broadcast yourself live, watch, chat, interact, connect and share videos with people all over the world.
Qik.com: Qik enables you to share your moments live with your friends, family and the world from your cell phone.