How to become a digital-first journalist in 30 days: Twitter

My New Year’s resolution is to be more patient with colleagues trying to make the digital transition.

This decision is less about me (impatience is, shall we say, an issue of mine) and more about what I see when I look around our newsroom. Finally, everyone has accepted the reality that change is afoot. And, with a few exceptions, everyone is willing to try to be a part of it.

Cool.

But those who waited to jump in have a new problem: A significant loss of resources has us all scrambling. Finding the time to learn new skills is nearly impossible.

Never fear, however. I have a three-step plan to get up to speed in just 30 days, without being forced to ask for help.

Today’s post will be about step one: Set up and use a Twitter account. (Learning time, 10 days.)

I didn’t initially buy into Twitter as a newsroom priority, primarily because it doesn’t directly drive much traffic to our digital content. Facebook does a much better job.

But I was thinking narrowly. After watching how colleagues use Twitter, I’m now convinced that it may be the digital-first shortcut we ink-stained wretches have been seeking.

Editors, in particular, would benefit from Twitter’s lessons. In general, editors in our newsroom have been slower to fully embrace Twitter. (Again, with exceptions.)

It’s the perfect platform for building the foundation of digital-first journalism: Constant publishing, interactivity, aggregation and transparency.

Need persuading? Just last week, Bud Kennedy and Aman Batheja were among the journalists who immediately spotted Rick Perry’s Wednesday morning Tweet revealing his campaign intentions. Thanks to their use of Twitter, we didn’t get beat on a huge Texas story.

Here’s your 10-day path to Twitter excellence:

Day One: Set up your Twitter account. If you already have one, go back in and add a photo (no default eggs, please) and update your bio. Include a link to the page on our website that best features your content.

Day Two: Follow @startelegram, @sportsdfw and @dfwdotcom. These are our primary institutional accounts.

Day Three: Go to the Star-Telegram on Twitter list and follow your colleagues. (You can always delete some later if you decide they aren’t relevant.) Many of these folks have mastered Twitter, and you’d be surprised what you can learn just by watching what they do.

Day Four: Pull up Twitter.com in a browser tab, sign in, and check your feed once an hour. This is the best way to keep up with what others are reporting.

Day Five: Re-Tweet (RT) a post you find interesting. For extra credit, add a few words of your own. Example below:

Day Six: Reply to a Tweet you find interesting. You might even get a conversation going. Example below:

Day Seven: Make your first Twitter post. It’s likely you don’t yet have thousands of followers, so don’t feel pressure to make it rock. That comes later.

Day Eight: Post a picture using Twitpic or yfrog. Post a Tweet that includes a link and a hashtag.

Day Nine (updated): Choose your favorite Twitter app and set it up on your computer. (The digital desk loves the Chrome app for TweetDeck because no desktop client is needed and you can sync your Chrome browser across computers.) You may choose to stay with the Twitter.com website, but third-party apps such as TweetDeck give you more flexibility. For example, with TweetDeck, you can tend to multiple accounts.

Day 10: Download a Twitter app on your phone and post from there. My current favorite is Osfoora for iPhone, but try a free app first. Seesmic and Twitter’s own client will work just fine for starters.

Remember, the goal is to make Twitter a habit. If you build on these steps and use Twitter every day, I promise that you will wake up one day and realize that you have learned:

— To publish continuously. (Watch how reporters such as @JScottNishimura update users during breaking news.)

— To interact with a community of users. (No one is better at this than @aandro.)

— How aggregation — sharing the work of others in a curated way-– is a form of journalism. (New phrase in journalism: “Retweeted by Andy Carvin.”)

Transparency, because you have to share something of yourself and your work in a non-formal way.

Next: Step two. Your smartphone is the only digital media tool you really need. And three. If you’re not blogging, you should be.

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