Here are excerpts from an e-mail I wrote to another online editor last night who is going through a hard time convincing her staff to embrace Twitter (and the Web in general). I hope my advice works for her.
I’ve been reading your blog, so I know pretty much what you’ve been going through.
Here’s how it worked for me:
I was on Twitter with my own personal account for a little while, and I quickly got addicted (as everyone does who uses it for a while, haha). So one morning, I went in to work and told my boss I was going to Tweet the news from a Statesman account. We had reserved the “@statesman” name a
year earlier (one of our tech guys did, just in case), but we were doing nothing with it.
Before I started, I did one night of research. I found Erica Smith’s tally blog of Newspapers that Twitter. I noticed the odd “ColonelTribune” on there, listed separately from the Chicago Tribune’s main account. Reading his Tweets made perfect sense to me – we (newspapers) are using Twitter the WRONG way. We should not be using Twitter as an RSS feed (Twitterfeed). We should be personal with it. Personable. ColonelTribune (besides being a brilliant persona) was using Twitter the right way.
I told my boss that next morning that I was on Twitter and knew the software and that i just wanted to play around with it by sending out headlines using our account. He OK’d it (without knowing Twitter himself), and I started right out.
Check out what we do on there now (http://twitter.com/statesman). I haven’t changed my formula much – I pick which headlines I think readers will want to see. I Tweet with a personal voice. I sometimes Tweet about things that aren’t even from our site – even pointing to the competition on occasion. And I respond to readers and ask them questions. The way I think about it is a morning news radio show. I say good morning, I say goodbye at the end of my shift. I thank them for contributions, etc.
So my suggestions for you:
1. Since you already have control of your Twitter account, turn off Twitterfeed. You might not have as much time as I do to Tweet, but every Tweet you send should be with personality. Quality over quantity.
2. Tell all your followers about the change.
3. Don’t worry about the reporters for now (as far as Twitter goes). It’s a hard sell until they see it really working.
4. Ask for story tips of your followers. Pass them to reporters. I’ve had many, many reporters say they can’t believe the tips they are getting.
5. Keep control over the account. Don’t turn the feed back on!
6. Ask me if you have any questions. I’d be glad to help!