Twitter is the smallest of the three most popular social media platforms used by Swedish Radio newsrooms/departments (Facebook is biggest, Instagram is second biggest). 25% of Swedish internet users have used Twitter at some time (according to Swedes and the Internet 2017) and it is still a popular tool among journalists, opinion leaders and politicians.
Unlike Facebook and Instagram, Twitter lacks actual comments fields and consists of short text messages, with or without a photo and short video clips.
When Twitter is useful:
When the newsroom/department is working with fast news research and following news events unfolding in real time.
In the case of political journalism covering communications on social media by politicians and those in power.
When the newsroom/department doing background searches on individuals (people finding) or when searching for people to interview, e.g. researchers.
Determine the identity/focus of your newsroom/department
Use photos and video clips in your tweets
Interact with your followers
Work with your language! Don’t sell it – tell it!
Analyse and evaluate
WHO ARE YOU ON TWITTER?
Before you begin to post tweets, you need to think about the newsroom’s/department’s identity on social media. What do you want to convey, and what can the audience expect when they follow your account? Try to identify what is unique and interesting about your newsroom/department. Identify your strengths and use them on social media.
Are you best at local news? Let reporters tweet live when they are covering interesting events!
Are 30-second explainers your thing? Then perhaps the unifying feature will be video as native content.
Are you the best in Sweden on film, theatre and literature? Then it might be worth investing in conversations with your department’s specialists.
Tweets consist of a maximum of 280 characters. You can add an object to each tweet: photo/video clip, GIF (there is a GIF archive in Twitter) or a poll. A photo/video in your tweet is eye-catching and holds your followers’ attention. Such tweets stand out in the feed, increasing your reach and interaction.
It is a challenge and a bit of an art form to formulate pithy tweets in such a limited number of characters. But don’t forget that you can tweet in threads if you need more space. You can write a number of tweets in response to your original tweet that all hang together. This works well for live reporting for example (from a trial or an unfolding news event), and for rants (longer connected arguments).
A link consumes 20 of your 280 characters, but photos and video clips do not consume characters. Add a photo and you will still have 280 characters to use in your tweet.
People who scroll in Twitter are usually there to do just that – not to click to other sites. The statistics also indicate that Twitter drives significantly less traffic to the website than Facebook. Therefore, as far as possible you should keep the content native (i.e. tell the whole story in a tweet) and not rely on followers clicking to another site.
Twitter is different from Facebook and Instagram in that it does not have a comments field system. Instead replies to your tweet form threads under your posts, which means that you cannot delete tweets written to/about your newsroom/department. So you cannot use Swedish Radio’s Comment Rules.
But you can view a Twitter thread as a comments field nonetheless, where the content impacts your audience’s perceptions of you and your credibility and thus it needs moderating. In the example below, a journalist from TT (news agency, Sweden's national wire service) Johannes Cleris criticises phone-in talkshow Ring P1 and receives replies from the newsroom.
Just like all social media, success on Twitter is based on interaction with other users and packaging your content in an attractive way that arouses curiosity. For a long time, many of Swedish Radio’s newsrooms/departments have used automatic feeds, where tweets are based on the headlines from material published on sverigesradio.se. This does not work well because your tweet loses the context that a headline, intro and photo create on the website. Our experience is that manual tweets win out in terms of reach and interaction.
The Twitter TIMELINE
For a long time, Twitter was a timeline where tweets mercilessly and rapidly disappeared from sight in favour of new ones. These days, the Twitter feed is controlled by algorithms (just like on Facebook and Instagram). But chronology is still more important here than on other platforms.
Since tweets rapidly slip away, there is no problem in posting the same content several times in a day. Preferably packaged differently, however.
Hashtags are still used very frequently on Twitter, but most of them are created for one-off phenomena and then disappear. Identifying relevant hashtags for your newsroom/department can be a great way to follow major gatherings, sports contests and events, for example, Almedalen week (a eyarly summit and conference for politics, industry and commerce on the island of Gotland), the Gothenburg Book Fair(Bokmässan) and the soccer World Cup.
Planting your own hashtags is difficult because they are based on other users (outside your newsroom/department) using them. Success requires patience and continuity, but above all that the hashtag has a clear benefit to the audience, for example to participate in a debate that the newsroom/department is leading and using in its journalism. Exampled of newsrooms/departments at Swedish Radio which have managed to keep their own hashtags alive for a longer period of time are #ringp1 (daily talk radio phone-in) and the yearly, week-long music and charity broadcast Musikhjälpen (which replaces its hashtag every year, #mh15, #mh16, etc.).
Note however that #mh2017 was not used because it was already in use to discuss the Malaysian aircraft shot down over Ukraine in 2014. Don’t forget to investigate whether your hashtag is already being used by someone, or has connotations that may be inappropriate for your purpose.
Sometimes one or more parallel hashtags arise during major news events (e.g., #salabranden during the big forest fire in Västmanland, and #openstockholm, when people opened up their homes to strangers after the terrorist attack on Drottninggatan in Stockholm 2017).
Under hashtags like this, the newsroom/department can identify eye witnesses and photos/video clips from eye witnesses that can be used in the coverage of the event. In recent years, Instagram has become a more and more obvious place for people to share experiences in photos and videos in situations such as these, and Twitter’s importance has simultaneously diminished. Learn more about how to work with interaction and hashtags here.
Identify Twitter accounts that may be of interest to the newsroom/department and those that you think may have an interest in following you. If your newsroom specialises in political journalism, you will find many politicians at different levels, from ministers to elected representatives in Sweden’s municipalities, on Twitter.
Ekot (SR's main newsroom) has a number of public lists, including government ministers, members of parliament, and Ekot's political reporters active on Twitter.
A science department will find many researchers in a variety of fields and disciplines active on Twitter, while a local P4 station will very likely find local politicians and celebrities, sports stars and clubs and everything in between. Twitter is an excellent tool for quickly getting in contact with relevant individuals, as guests in the studio or for interviews for reports.