ASJA’s Social Media Crash Course: How to Write Tweets People Read

American Society of Journalists and Authors‘ (ASJA)

Crafting your thoughts in 140 characters or less can be a challenge. Should you be funny? Informative? Should you retweet? Reply? Favorite? The list goes on.

In an interactive workshop moderated by Rae Padilla at the American Society of Journalists and Authors‘ (ASJA) annual conference, I heard from a panel of people who write tweets that actually get read – and retweeted. Check out some of the things each of them had to say.

Jessica Misener, senior editor at BuzzFeed | @jessmisener

  • Twitter is instrumental in developing a voice and a character. Misener writes in lower case and without periods – but it’s all about what works best for you.
  • The No. 1 thing you can do on Twitter is be funny. Participate in what’s going on. For example, if it’s the Super Bowl then tweet about that with a mix of funny and topical.
  • If you’re not funny, you can always take screenshots of funny things you see around the Internet. (A good place to find that can be in the comments section of Reddit.)
  • Don’t overuse hashtags. Misener only really uses hashtags ironically.

Leslie Poston, author of “Social Media Metrics for Dummies” and co-author of “Twitter for Dummies” | @Leslie

  • As a writer, you can tell a lot about your story in 140 words or less.
  • Find your voice (it’s half the fun of Twitter) but don’t stress too much about it. Remember, it’s *just* Twitter.
  • If you’re not funny, you can fake it. “OH” means “overheard,” so if you hear something that is worth sharing, then you can tweet that.
  • Tweets about topical news depend on timing.
  • As far as self-promotion, it’s sometimes better to keep a link to your work in your bio and keep your tweets to your thoughts. A good example to follow would be Margaret Atwood, who tweets about issues instead of promoting her own books.
  • Fact-check before you tweet.
  • A good example of a journalist to follow is @acarvin.

Michael Roston, social media editor with The New York Times | @michaelroston

  • Follow Twitter etiquette: Twitter is like a cocktail party – sometimes you start a conversation, sometimes you contribute, and sometimes you just listen.
  • Have a set of patterns and habits. For example, tweet a greeting at the beginning of a shift. For Roston, he’d read the news throughout his night shift and then have a tweet listing “the first thing you should read today” for everyone just waking up in the morning.
  • Avoid shoehorning things on Twitter that should belong on Facebook or Instagram.
  • Don’t overuse hashtags.
  • Regarding self-promotion: Build a community on Twitter so that when it’s time to self-promote people will be happy for you.

You can read more of our recaps from the ASJA annual conference on ProfNet Connect, including:

TODAY at 1pm EDT: Join us for the Google+ Hangout How Journalists Can Use G+ to Build Their Brand

Angela Smith is a community services specialist with ProfNet, a service that connects journalists and bloggers with expert sources. Register at to begin using ProfNet and PR Newswire for Journalists’ other tools. To read more from Angela, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect or follower her @AllYouKnead11.

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