Why Use Twitter? Notes for My Journalism Expo Twitter Training

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On Friday, May 1, I’ll be helping to give the free social media training being offered by the Public Media Collaborative for Bay Area people who work for mission-driven organizations — community organizations, church groups, social service agencies, charities, etc. It’s part of Journalism Innovations II: New Work & Ideas for Making the News, an event organized by Arts and Media. Social media training will be offered in English and Spanish.

  • WHEN: May 1, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. PT
  • WHERE: McLaren Hall, University of San Francisco (Directions)

I’ll be handling Twitter training, from 1-2:15 pm.

So: What do people who do community- or mission-focused work really need to know about Twitter? First, it helps to know why it works. After that, learning how to use it makes much more sense…


The main value of Twitter, in my experience, is that it makes it very easy for you to build and strengthen personal connections. Don’t get distracted by the technology. Focus on the people, and act human. Don’t be all business/mission. That not only makes Twitter more fun — it makes it more effective.


Twitter works because it doesn’t inherently demand too much attention. When you’re limited to transmitting just 140 characters at a time, you must get right to the point. Even if it’s just a minor point. Makes it less intimidating for people to tune it to what you’re saying, and more likely that they’ll keep listening.


People pay attention to you when you pay attention to them. Twitter is a good tool for showing people that you’re paying attention to them. A good guideline is to spend half your Twitter time reading rather than posting — and half of your posts (“tweets”) should either be responding to or amplifying what others have said. Starting out this way tends to make it easier to get used to Twitter and see the value.

Fortunately, Twitter makes it easy to pay attention to a lot of people. Just slart slowly, so you get used to this communication environment gradually. It is different from how you’re used to talking to people.


In other words, don’t just repeatedly answer the question posed on the Twitter site: “What are you doing?” Most people’s daily lives simply aren’t that interesting.

Start paying attention to what you find truly interesting, engaging, fun, or important in your life and work, and post about that stuff — insights, questions, funny moments, news stories, etc. When you are interesting, people will start following you.


Twitter users often say strange things like, “I tweeted that,” and “he’s following me” and “I’ll DM you about that.” This can be a bit offputting or annoying, but the lingo actually makes sense and it really isn’t complicated. Susan Mernit published a good Twitter Glossary to help you sort that out.

…During the session, I’ll walk participants through the basics of:

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