Twelve tips for connecting with reporters on Twitter
Twitter can be a great place for small business owners to connect with reporters -- if you know how to use this increasingly popular social-media platform.
It can also be a place where you annoy reporters and destroy all hope that they will ever write about your company. Most entrepreneurs don't seem to have the vaguest idea how to connect with reporters on Twitter and make a positive impression.
How can you contact reporters and get them interested in your company story in just 140 characters? Here are a dozen tips for building media relationships on Twitter:
- Find reporters. First, you'll need to locate reporters who might be interested in your business type or the story you are hoping to publicize. Fortunately, this part is easy. There are several sites that track journalists on Twitter, most prominently MuckRack or JournalistTweets (the latter has a handy listing of Klout scores for the journos.) A visit there will give you a strong sense of which reporters are making frequent use of Twitter. If you're hunting local journalists from your newspaper, take a look at the online masthead and you may be able to harvest a list of Twitter handles -- more and more media outlets are including them in contact information.
- Fill out your Twitter profile. If your profile contains no website link where visitors can learn more about your company, reporters will think you're bogus. And don't put your GPS coordinate numbers as your location, or say you’re "Everywhere." Journalists often need to find sources in specific places, so if you say where you really are, there’s a better chance a member of the media will discover you're perfect for one of their articles.
- Make it look nice. A little work to style your profile goes a long way toward making you look more legitimate on Twitter. Install a nice free background or put graphics from your company website into the backdrop. Also, upload a company logo or a picture of the CEO to replace that default Twitter egg graphic. Take a look at how anonymous and lame that looks -- then, get rid of it.
- Be friendly. Imagine you're meeting a reporter at a cocktail party. Would you just start right in selling them on your business? Right. Don't do it on Twitter, either. At first, just lurk and find out what sort of tweets the reporter makes. Also learn Twitter etiquette -- how to use hashtags and @ handles to increase your odds that a reporter will see what you're tweeting. Then, introduce yourself, or mention an article the reporter wrote that you've read. Talk about the weather. Anything that breaks the ice.
- Target interesting links to the reporter. Once you see the sort of articles the reporter leaves links about, send them something similar you've found online. After a while, you might do that with something from your company blog.
- Know that journalists probably won't follow you back. Most reporters are not an automatic follow-back. Many have quite a few more followers than they have people they are following.
- Don't auto-direct message a sales pitch. Spammy direct messages will often get blocked off a reporter’s twitter list.
- Keep it short. Don't send a reporter eight successive tweets that, when pieced together, tell the story of what your company does. If you want to send a lengthy pitch, find an email address.
- Take it slow. If you send a message every day basically begging for the reporter to take a look at your company, they probably never will. You wouldn't pitch a reporter that often in any other medium, so don't do it on Twitter, either.
- Check them out. Make sure your information about what the reporter covers is up to date. They may have covered jobs and careers a couple of years back, but have moved on from that beat. Visit their writer site or the masthead of their publication to get up-to-date information on topics of interest.
- Get referred. Reporters do sometimes tweet about sources they are looking for, and appreciate it when existing connections send possible sources. If possible, get someone the reporter follows to recommend you or introduce you.
- Use lists to stay in touch. If a journalist finds your business interesting but they have no story planned on a related subject right now, they might add you to one of their Twitter lists -- so be scanning those to see if your company is getting listed. Reporters sometimes use those lists to troll for sources, especially if they have a tight deadline. You might also get a journalist’s attention by putting them on one of your lists.
Most of all, know that building relationships on Twitter takes time, just as it does in person. Don't expect instant results. Instead, start circulating and following people, and build the credibility of your business's brand online. Then, when you reach out to journalists, you're more likely to find a receptive ear.
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