Twitter is one of, if not the most important social media tool for journalists.

It allows a spread of information faster and further than anyone had ever seen before. Events happening worldwide can be tracked as they happen instead of waiting for a website update or the morning newspaper or the 11 p.m. report.

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 10.29.26 PMLocally, different news outlets use it in different ways. At the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a barrage of different stories get tweeted with a tease and a short link on a regular schedule at almost all hours. Channel 8 news have a stronger focus on local breaking news, and seemingly aren’t tweeting by any schedule. The tweets will be similar in nature, save for use of “#BREAKING” on some 8 tweets. Other news stations won’t tweet very often, or will do so in ways that aren’t beneficial to their exposure. Twitter even wrote an entire blog dedicated to journalists’ use of the social medium.

The importance of how you tweet is huge. For those who aren’t sitting behind a company name on Twitter, using hashtags and active links is very important. Tweeting “@” people or companies when referencing them is important, too. Many times, if something is going on, the company or person will respond or retweet to further the interaction of your tweet and the rest of the world. Say there’s a massive fire somewhere, if you tweet @reviewjournal a picture and some details, they would probably use it somewhere.

Since you’re limited to 140 characters, it’s a good excuse to use Bitly or Tinyurl to shorten links.

A detriment of Twitter for news outlets is the unity of voice.  If five – 10 people are using the same Twitter account, it’s crucial that they share a certain way of expressing ideas, down to the period. Literally.

If one person for a store Tweeted “#SALE! Come ovr for cool new #shoes at #JungleShoes” vs. “Stop by x location for half off until 3! #sweetdeals,” you’d be hesitant to follow them because you wouldn’t be able to grasp what they’re trying to “do.”

I’m a big believer in blending a professional and personal account. If you go to my Twitter, you’ll see I tweet RJ links and AP links and retweet the New York Times but then I’ll just post about something I’m watching on TV, like Gilmore Girls right now. I feel like it’s a good idea to give yourself personality because I wouldn’t trust a journalist that never tweets something about themselves or their lives. Just, you know, keep it appropriate. I never tweet about politics, religion, or anything really opinionated (with an exception of the Tweets I know I’ll be sending tomorrow when Portugal wins! >:)

However, there are companies that are so off the rails and nonsensical coughDENNYS’TWITTERcough  that it works in their favor. Maybe for shock value because you expect tweets about deal on pancakes and instead get “lol,” who knows? They’re really secretive about it.

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Oh, Imogen Heap.

Facebook is another great tool. It provides different access to stories than Twitter does. Say a Tweet for a story says “You’ll never guess what this hero mom did! linkgoeshere,” on Facebook, you’ll get the headline as well as the lead and the ability to write a more thorough tease on there. The commenting makes it more accessible (sometimes too much) to the public for discussion and reaction, whereas you get that on Twitter, but more privately.

Facebook also has the recently revamped Insights page for Facebook pages.  It gives you literally everything you could possibly need or want to know about the activity of a page, tracking all sorts of data and making it really easy to interpret that data.

So, uhh, follow me on Twitter: @kristendesilva (and @reviewjournal, while you’re at it!)