How do you teach Twitter?

I’ve spent a lot of time this past week trying to find ways to show people how Twitter can make their work life easier/simpler/more fun. I’m not sure how succesful I’ve been. Social Media is a drip drip process that has to be worked on. You can’t become an aficionado overnight. But here are a few thoughts.

The Social Tweeter

20130204-194940.jpg

I got the first year undergraduate students in my Digital Journalism class to create their Social Media portraits so I could get a better idea of how they use different platforms – if at all.

The vast majority use Social Media a lot, mainly Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. But they’re using it almost exclusively to keep in touch with friends and follow celebrity news (it’s not called SOCIAL media for nothing.)

A few of them are blogging or following other people’s blogs.

Soundcloud is quite popular for sharing music they’ve made and finding other people’s music. There were one or two Pinterest users who said they liked finding cute DIY ideas they’ll never use!! There was also one Reddit fan.

There were a few who didn’t have a Twitter account or who did have one “but then realised they didn’t need it.”

So the task is to get these students to realise they already have the skills and experience (in most cases) to use social media like a real journalist. What they now need to do is crank it up a bit and find out how they can use social media in a more sophisticated, more professional way. But it’s hard getting people to turn their favourite social platforms into yet another work thing!

I decided to try to amaze them with the power of Twitter as a search tool! Don’t just google “Salford” when you want a story idea or an interviewee. See how much deeper you can get with a really well filtered Twitter search! So I started by showing them a few of my favourites – Followerwonk which is a great way to search Twitter bios, Listorious, a useful people search and list directory and Trendsmap which is a fun way to search local Twitter trends. Then I hit them with the big one – search operators! This was totally new information for every single one of them. They had no idea you could interrogate twitter so closely. I handed out copies of the list of operators (one between two to encourage collaboration) and then gave them some Twitter Tasks to perform. It’s based loosely on Sarah Marshall’s MozFest social media training session but I’ve simplified it into a bite-sized chunk which I think works better with students who may need a bit of convincing about all this kind of stuff.

•Find 2 Manchester Evening News journalists on Twitter
•Find people talking in a positive way about the film Django Unchained.
•What are people tweeting about in Cape Town, South Africa?
•Find three people near Birmingham talking about the High Speed Rail link (HS2)
•Find a very recent photo or video from MediaCityUK.
The last question was a bit of a trick. I “planted” a photo on Twitter for them to find. Well, it got a few smiles….
photo-54

The tasks gave the more advanced Twitter users plenty to keep them busy whilst I went round to each individual student (I had about 17 in each class) starting with the ones who were less experienced. The social media self-portraits were really useful in finding out who might need a bit more support early on and who would be able to work through the tasks independently. I was able to spend a few minutes with each student getting them started, answering specific questions, gently encouraging. I made sure to explain to them how these techniques could help in real journalistic scenarios and, crucially, help them get their assessments done.

Interrogating Twitter in this way really was a revelation to them so it was great fun for me to be able to share this stuff.

My colleague, Alex Fenton, who shares the teaching on this module, used another approach with the class the following week.  He got them all to send out one tweet using our module hashtag #DigiJourno. Even this was new to some of the students. They were encouraged to retweet the most interesting/relevant ones. Again, it was a nice, bite-sized chunk of Twitter that slotted into the theme of the session without overloading anyone. It’s very easy to put people off Twitter for life by drowning them in information! I’d tried to introduce lists and Tweetdeck but that was probably a step too far at this stage and was definitely off-putting to some in the class – although the more adept twitter users immediately saw the benefits.

And it was a revelation to the students to find themselves in a university class where you were actively encouraged to spend time tweeting!!

The Reluctant Tweeter

Away from university, I found myself discussing twitter on two separate occasions last week with friends who work in the media making radio programmes (not news programmes so they wouldn’t describe themselves as journalists). Both had had bad experiences with twitter.  One had been ordered to tweet by a manager but there was no thought-out strategy to this so the producer was left confused about the aim of the tweeting. She’d missed the one training session available. The other friend had been on a training session but it had seemed boring and irrelevant. Unsurprisingly, they both felt very negative about twitter and saw it as an extra workload being imposed on them.

The upshot of these conversations is that one of the friends is coming round for coffee one evening next week and I’m going to try to persuade her that it’s worth giving Twitter a second chance. Again, I think advanced search is the way to her heart. Show her how Twitter can help her find fantastic programme guests then all the rest will follow! You’ve got to make it relevant to people’s work life otherwise they just see it as an extra, time-consuming task they just don’t want to do.

I am genuinely excited by this challenge! I’ll let you know if I win her over. Then I’ll use that success story to work on Friend #2. Ideally, I want to spend a day at work with her putting her favourite contacts into Twitter lists…..

If you have any tips for teaching Twitter, I’d love to hear from you.

A news journalist confesses

Jeff Jarvis has – as is his custom – stirred a lively debate with a couple of recent pieces about the “death” of the article as the end product of the journalist’s job.  In brief, he says that an article is too static and out-of-date once it is published.  It is also expensive and time-consuming to produce and deliver making it a luxury product.  The time, effort and resources spent on it could be better used, he argues, in doing the real journalism job of finding out what the story is and sharing updates with the reader ASAP, in real time, ideally.  Social media makes this possible, as Andy Carvin at NPR (@acarvin) has famously shown.

Of course, as Jeff Jarvis writes, the article is not actually dead.  He wrote one for the Guardian on precisely this topic after all!  But he believes that an article now has to contain loads of context, analysis and opinion (a la Economist) to justify the expense.

It got me thinking about the way I access news these days, especially now that I no longer work in a newsroom.  Do I still read “articles?”

How often do I listen to radio bulletins?  Nowhere near as much as I used to.  This is mainly because my daughters chat so much at breakfast it’s impossible to hear the Today programme properly, even though it still gets switched on.  When I do have time to myself in the kitchen to listen or when I’m out running, it’s invariably a time when there isn’t a news bulletin being broadcast on my preferred channels – radio four and World Service.  This is really frustrating.

How often do I watch TV news programmes?  Hardly ever but, then, I was never a huge fan.  It always feels that too much effort and money is put into the production values rather than real reporting but that may be my World Service envy of the resources lavished on the 10 o’clock news.  But also, watching a TV news bulletin is very time-consuming and not a very intense news fix to justify the time I have to invest in watching.

How often do I read newspaper articles?  I’m almost embarrassed to answer this one!  I download the Saturday edition of the Guardian but rarely get to read articles on the Saturday so by the time I do get time to read, the purely news articles are way out-of-date so I skip them and go to the comment/analysis pieces.  I’ll dip into Media Guardian articles – but only if they’ve tweeted their existence to me first.  I love the Guardian brand but I hardly ever buy the end product these days.  I consume it online but mostly via Twitter.  I’ll read other Newspaper’s articles too if they get a good recommendation on Twitter!

So, erm, that looks like a pretty radical shift in my news habits just over the last 6 months.  I now need to think about whether I feel more or less informed about the world.

How I fell in love with Storify.

I know I’m a bit behind the times with this one.  I’ve been admiring Storify from afar for some time but only tried it out for myself this week and I’m hooked.

I gave myself a concrete task.  I was interested in the conference on the impact of MediaCity on the North West which took place at The Hive in Manchester on Monday, 20th June.  I couldn’t go to it myself but I dipped into the twitter feed through the day.  It seemed I wasn’t the only one (£145 + VAT for the full day put a lot of people off).  So I thought it would be a fun and, possibly, useful idea to create a round-up of the day using Storify to collate and contextualise the tweets.  Maybe some of those other people who couldn’t attend would find it interesting.  And maybe some of those people who DID attend would appreciate a convenient way of reading the thoughts of other delegates.

You can see the result for yourself here!

1)  Storify was easy to learn and use.  I think there were a few gremlins when I was doing this on Tuesday evening with the Twitter feed freezing a couple of times and a few other annoyances.  But I’m incredibly impatient so let’s give Storify the benefit of the doubt on that one and blame the operator.

2) It was a very quick platform for getting rid of the noise and finding the real content.  I could also add video (Ed Vaizey’s contribution was a pre-recprded interview played out at the conference) and some post-conference blogs.

3) I was amazed how much information I could get about the conference (who said what) just using Twitter.  But I was even more impressed with how much of the ambient stuff I could get at too – the vibe, the lunchtime conversations, which speaker impressed the most.  So the resultant Storify piece wasn’t just a case of “she said, he said, I thought.”  There was more of a vibe to it and I found myself able to add a bit of personality into my links as well – even though I hadn’t been in the room.  I’d assumed I’d have to keep them pretty bland but building a Stortify piece does actually give you the space for some creativity if you’re that way inclined.  I hadn’t expected that.

4) Storify is a great way of summarising a conference.  Of course, it relies on people at the conference being generous tweeters and it definitely helped that The Hive offered free wifi and told everyone that the # to use was #MediaCityUK.  I could have done with some images though!  I couldn’t find any.

5) The BEST thing is the notify button!  This meant I could thank all the people whose tweets/content I’d used and direct them to my piece.  This is a great way of networking as well as sharing.  I also posted the link to the piece on Twitter using the hashtag #MediaCityUK.

@creatingacity Thanks for tweeting from#MediaCtyUK. I’ve used yr quotes in my Storify piece http://tinyurl.com/MediaCityUKconf

If you missed #MediaCityUK conference – or want to relive the experience – check out my Storify piecehttp://tinyurl.com/MediaCityUKconf

6) I got loads of great feedback and new contacts!  I was genuinely surprised.  People seemed to like seeing their tweets used in this context and thought it was a good way of documenting the conference.  Nobody felt I’d misrepresented it in any way which proves that following a hashtag is as good as buying a ticket to attend!!

Liking Storify RT @LizHannaford @paulunger @bbcnorth #MediaCtyUK I’ve used yr quotes in my Storify piece http://tinyurl.com/MediaCityUKconf

Great Storify piece by @LizHannaford about #MediaCityUK including one of my ramblings http://t.co/20ZkXpA

@LizHannaford thanks for that – you’ve done well there summing up the spectrum of feelings. Let’s hope the managers take them all on board!

Great Storify article from the #mediacityUK conference in Manchester on Monday by @lizhannaford http://lnkd.in/a-dwWH – spot the Tweeter

@LizHannaford your ‘tweet stream’ blog is a fascinating diary of the day. Welcome to Mellor #Stockport btw ;o)

@LizHannaford *really* like Storify format – you’ve made me re-think it! Just read your twitter biog – welcome ooop north. Enjoying so far?

OK, so I could probably have done these tweet quotes as a Storify embed but time is getting on.

So I had a lot of fun and it was quite an eye-opener.  It also seems to have got other people interested in using Storify in different ways.  I’ve followed up some of those contacts and got my first #FF, albeit on a Wednesday so I’m not sure that counts.