twitter for journalists

Why Twitter matters

Some people look at Facebook and Twitter, conclude that Facebook has the larger audience, and decide to focus their efforts there. Yes, Facebook is really important, but there are good reasons to make sure you're engaging on both platforms.

First, the audiences are very different. Facebook is organized across "the social graph," which means most people follow people they've met. In contrast, Twitter is organized across "the interest graph," which means people follow accounts that provide valuable information, whether they've met or not.

Facebook is mostly about interlocking rings of privacy - walled gardens in which information gets trapped (i.e. Google can't see the vast majority of content on Facebook). But Twitter is fully public, just like the rest of the web. By definition, content on Twitter has a much wider reach - everything you post can potentially be seen by the whole world.

While Facebook has a "share" function that lets people repeat things others have said, it's not used nearly as often as Twitter's "retweet" function. One of Twitter's key functions is as a news and information amplifier, which is why news spreads so much more quickly on Twitter than on Facebook.

Will Twitter traffic cannibalize traditional web site content? Take a look at this data produced by Twitter the evening the death of Osama Bin Laden was announced:


Twitter was tracking 12.4 million tweets per hour (4,000 per second) on this topic. A very large portion of these tweets were pointing back to traditional media sources. Twitter alone wasn't enough for these readers - they were still going to traditional news sites to get the full story. Twitter was amplifying the spread of news, not replacing it.

Because of this amplification effect, Twitter has an immediacy that Facebook doesn't have. Many big news stories have broken first on Twitter. For events and crises, nothing can top Twitter's real-time effectiveness.

Because it's aligned on the interest graph, Twitter users spend a lot of energy fine-tuning and curating their information streams (Facebook users are often reluctant to unfollow people for fear of being rude). Twitter is an information fire hose in a way that Facebook is not.

As a result, many news junkies greatly prefer Twitter over Facebook. They're two very different parties - one consisting of friends and one consisting of information sources. As a journalist, you really want to be at both parties.

Since people don't have to follow you just so you can see the content they post, journalists find Twitter a much better way to track down sources, dig up more information on stories, crowdsource content, get questions answered, push out quick news blasts, and to take the pulse of a community or topic.

Most sites that have both Tweet This and Facebook Like buttons show more Facebook likes for their stories, but this isn't always true:

Twitter Fb Numbers

In most cases, these numbers have more to do with how much energy the journalist or organization puts into the respective platforms. Ignore Twitter and the numbers will skew toward Facebook. And vice versa.

If you're primarily a Facebook user and need a hand understanding how and why the Twitter ecosystem can be as rich or richer than Facebook's, see A Guide to Twitter for Facebook Users.

Fastest Way Into Search Engines

Finally, note that Twitter is likely the fastest way to get links to your site's content into Google and other search engines. Because search engines "license" the Twitter stream for their real-time results, links posted via Twitter show up on Google seconds later.

Try posting a tweet with a highly unique string, then go immediately to Google and search for that same string. After the results appear, click on More, then Real-Time in the left margin.