“I hate Twitter.” “Twitter is dead.”
These are sentiments I hear often. While I wouldn’t recommend Twitter for everyone, there is still value to be taken from the platform, especially in our line of work. Here are five ways I use Twitter to my advantage:
1. Use Twitter Lists
One of the most helpful tricks on Twitter (that I was devastated to see phased out on Facebook) are Lists. You can create public and private lists to help categorize and keep track of the accounts you follow. Over the years, the number of accounts I follow has gotten a little out of control. Since then, I have taken steps to make lists to track the accounts and users I’m most interested in, like close friends, media contacts and even my current, former and dream clients. If you’d like to be helpful, you can make a public list that other people can use to follow topics of mutual interest as well.
2. Contact Your Elected Officials
When I worked in the legislature, I helped state Senators learn how to better connect with their constituents online and reach a larger audience. While there are many ways to contact your elected officials – phone calls, emails, visiting them at in-district events – there is one thing I noticed that really caught their attention on the floor: Twitter. For the elected officials that use the platform, Twitter is one of the few methods of contact that they personally keep track of. I’ve seen the impact tweets can have when specific topics are being discussed on the Senate floor, particularly if several people are joining in on the conversation. On a larger scale, we’re seeing that Twitter can certainly have an impact on our national narrative, for better or worse. And plus, if you don’t follow Congressman John Dingell, you’re missing out.
3. Engage with the Press
Another group that is prevalent on Twitter is reporters. To be perfectly honest, I was a bit hesitant to approach reporters when I first started my career. I was nervous that I might say the wrong thing. Now that I have met more reporters – and am lucky enough to call some of them friends – I’ve become more comfortable. Interacting with the press on Twitter is an approachable way to begin those relationships and hopefully bring them offline. I also like to support their work by retweeting them directly.
4. Join the Conversation
When I think of Twitter, I like to remember the “good old days” before it was too new of a platform to have many trolls or bot accounts. When the platform started, it was a place for people to connect, forge relationships and have conversations about shared interests. Those opportunities still exist today – if you look in the right place or take the time to create them yourself. One of my favorite examples is #LoveLansing, which was started years ago and is still used to highlight the tremendous progress and activities happening in the Greater Lansing region. We’ve also started a conversation around childhood immunization rates by encouraging people to share their stories about why they choose to vaccinate by using #IVaccinate. When starting a conversation, always remember to first search the hashtag to make sure it’s not already in use or, if it is, that previous posts are appropriate to the conversation you’d like to have.
5. Skim for News
More comfortable sitting on the sidelines? Twitter is useful for that, too! Leading news outlets update their accounts frequently throughout the day and it is one of the best places for minute-to-minute updates on large events (or your favorite television show – watch out for spoilers!). In fact, one of the first events that thrust Twitter into the spotlight was Captain Sulley’s miraculous landing in the Hudson River. Nowadays, we even see entire news stories comprised almost entirely out of embedded tweets.
So, is Twitter “dead”? I don’t think so. As I mentioned before, the platform is serving as a center point for communication on the national political stage, and other influencers continue to use the platform to connect with their fans, constituents, readers or community. If you choose to use this tool, use it wisely and to your advantage.
Elizabeth Battiste is an account executive with a solid public policy background, exceptional strategic social media and digital marketing knowledge, project management, event planning and the ability to manage multiple projects under tight deadlines. You can follow her on Twitter @elizbattiste or connect with her on LinkedIn. Also, be sure to follow us @martinwaymire!