Pull sexy quotes, say thank you and share, share, share #ahcj14

Photo by Katie McCrimmonLiz Szabo meets with journalists at Health Journalism 2014.

Overheard at “The Art of the Tweet:” Pull out a sexy quote to write a good tweet like: “#Ambien replaces #roofies as new date rape drug.”

“I’d read that,” said Liz Szabo, medical writer for USA Today (@LizSzabo) and an early adopter who shared her favorite tips for using Twitter during a Thursday afternoon session at Health Journalism 2014 in Denver (#ahcj14).

Yes, you can tweet. Yes, you can make time. Yes, it’s worthwhile. Those were the headlines from the Art of the Tweet session where Szabo spoke along with Gil Asakawa, manager of student media at the University of Colorado Boulder (@GilAsakawa). Andrew Villegas (@ReporterAndrew), associate editor of Kaiser Health News moderated the session. They shared a list of people for health journalists to follow.

Asakawa and Szabo say that journalists are great at crafting 140-character gems. And the good news is you get to be a little snarky in the process.

Photo by Katie McCrimmonGil Asakawa at the Art of the Tweet.

Photo by Katie McCrimmonGil Asakawa at Health Journalism 2014.

Here are some of their top tips:

  • Become a hub for interesting news: retweet news in your field, even stories from your competitors

  • Craft tweets carefully. Never just send out headlines. A good headline for print often sinks on Twitter.

  • Like the lede says, trying using a good quote. Start with Wow! See what responses you get. Cite the source of the quote or add a link.

  • Use TweetDeck or Hootsuite to organize the people you are following.

  • Ask Twitter users for information. Seek out sources. If you want to talk to a potential source privately, ask them to “DM” (or direct message) you.

  • Have fun. Be conversational. For instance Szabo retweeted news from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control about which sexually transmitted diseases were worst one year. She followed it with the line: “Better luck next year chlamydia!”

  • Monitor popular hash tags to keep up with developments on your beat.

  • Get “verified” on Twitter to get more followers. (Getting verified means that Twitter makes sure you are who you say you are.) Twitter loves journalists. Ask them for help, then they’ll send you a weekly analytics report.

  • Register on Muckrack so people can find you and know what you cover.

  • Use the “Advanced Search” function on Twitter. It’s a great way to do research on what the Twittersphere is talking about.

  • Try Twitterfall if you’re trying to follow a news event. You’ll get a cascade of news all about that topic.

  • If you want to know how you rate on Twitter, try Twitonomy.

  • Host and participate in Twitter chats. This is a great way to find interesting people on your beat.

  • Thank people who “RT” or retweet you.

  • If you find someone interesting, praise them. RT them. Schmooze with them.

  • Make sure the hash tags you’re using are still hip. On Tweetdeck, you can put in a hash tag and see if anyone is using it. If not, ditch that tag and look for the most current hash tags that people are using.

  • If you find a source through Twitter, don’t just quote them. You still have to vet them and make sure their story is real. Try to contact them and follow up by phone.

  • Share, share, share. It’s “old-world thinking” not to acknowledge a good scoop someone else gets. Your readers come to you for the highest-quality news from all sources.

  • Make time for social media. It takes time, but the dividends will pay off in better stories that you’ll pick up sooner than other journalists.

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