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Being Strategic about Social Media (Part III): Twitter

So far, I've touched on why it's important to be strategic about social media and how to be strategic using Facebook.

Up next: Twitter.

The three questions we're focusing on are:

1) Who is on it?

According to the latest data from Pew Research Center, 18% of people who use the Internet are on Twitter and the platform is appealing to 18- to 29-year-olds (30% use Twitter), African-Americans and Latinos, and residents in urban areas. Twitter news followers are more likely to be male (57%) and well-educated (37% have a college degree).

Twitter users also tend to favor mobile devices v. desktops (76% own a smartphone and 64% get their news via smartphones).

Overall, there are 200 million active users on Twitter, and that number is growing. Twitter's recent $1 billion IPO has opened some doors to data: Twitter says it has 1 billion users but only 218 million active users.

2) What are they using it for?

Pew says one key reason is to connect with public figures. One in 10 Twitter users say the major reason they use social media is to read comments by public figures. (Is it any wonder that Justin Bieber is No. 1 on Twitter with 45 million followers?)

Here's a nice infographic by Lab 42 that sums up Twitter usage. (It's a bit outdated in Twitter-time but still has a lot of good info

Pew says 83% of users say they see news on Twitter. And 36% of twitter users say they get their news from friends and family while 27% say they get it from journalists on twitter. The advantage for journalists is that some Twitter users want to know what they are saying v. what news Aunt Mary wants to share.

So putting your content on Twitter will get it in front of a younger demographic, educated, smartphone-savvy group that is interested in your expertise .....

What's the flip side of that? Try asking yourself what are people doing on Twitter that might be useful to you?

Too often we think of social media as one-directional communication instead of a 360-degree conversation. Twitter's real value to a journalist might be the information you absorb rather than put out there.

Twitter is a great tool for sourcing. You can follow leaders in your community or tagged conversations. You can instantaneously tap into breaking news (though you need to use common sense in trusting that information). You can follow everything your competitors are doing in one spot :)

3) When are they on it?

That depends .... Some experts say weekends generate the highest engagement. Others say weekdays. Most agree that twitter traffic does down between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m.

This info graphic from gives a decent outline:

But you should analyze your own tweets and measure when your followers are the most active. When folks are online in New York is likely difference from a rural community in Texas. And you should make sure you are active when they are active instead of clustering your social media work at the start or end of your workday.

So what's your strategy?

If Twitter only has 200 million users to Facebooks 1.5 billion, does that mean you should ignore Twitter? Or is there value in building a connection with a younger demographic that might turn into revenue-generating customers in the future? Or should you use Twitter to consume information yourself?

And what metrics will you use to define Twitter success? The number of retweets? Page referrals? Number of followers? Your Klout score? Number of interactions? That all depends on what your strategy is.

Only you -- your budget, your time and your company's goals -- can answer that. Just do your research and be armed with facts to help guide your decision.

Twitter is like a firehose. It's a portal for massive flows of information. You just want to make sure you're reaching people, not overwhelming them.

Some basic Twitter tips:

1) As with all social media accounts, fill out your profile as completely as possible. Humanize yourself a bit. Make sure you put up a picture of yourself (there's nothing worse than seeing those darn eggs).

2) Use hashtags effectively but don't tweet like a robot. For most copy editors, this is Headlines 101. You need to hit people with the real info first, use keywords (with #) and put it in context. With roughly 250 million tweets a day, yours needs to stand out.

3) Twitter lets you use 140 characters, but you should never tweet more than 100 to make it easier for others to retweet you.

4) Make sure you know your company's social media policy. Tweeting your personal opinion, like the University of Kansas professor did attacking the NRA, can get you in trouble.

5) Find an expert and listen to him/her. There's little doubt that Twitter's IPO is going to cause some changes. What we think we know today could change tomorrow. Steve Buttry, The Buttry Diary, offers some great Twitter tips for journalists at

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