How journalists use Twitter

An editor explains how he uses Twitter to dig up stories, and why you should pitch him on Twitter instead of email.

I’ve tweeted three times in the last 12 days. Three.

Yet I’m on Twitter constantly.

I have 15 active columns on TweetDeck. At any time I have a dozen Twitter app alerts on my phone. I probably spend more time crawling through Twitter than watching “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” trailers, and I spend a lot of time watching those.

What the hell am I doing, and how do I source stories without tweeting much? By doing these five things:

1. Tweeting—just not from my personal account.

As a senior editor at Thrillist, I oversee our four biggest editions: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Since I live in the Bay Area, though, I constantly tweet from our @ThrillistSF handle, whether it’s something we couldn’t cover in full (the event happened too late, someone sent Nerf guns to the office, a tour of the Niners’ new stadium), teaser photos for an upcoming story or awesome stuff we see before anyone else, like this:

2. Doing geo-targeted searches.

Type this into the Twitter search bar: bar opening near: “san francisco” within: 25mi.

You’ll get any tweets mentioning the words “bar” and “opening” within 25 miles of San Francisco. This is one of Twitter’s coolest tricks, and an incredible way to sniff out bar/restaurant openings. It also allows you to regionalize Twitter.

3. Hashtag crawling.

If you don’t include hashtags in your tweets, you’re doing something wrong. I follow more than 2,000 people, which means I only see snippets of what those people are saying in my feed. But when it comes to hashtags that matter to Thrillist, I scroll through all of them, whether it’s #sfmuni, #bart, #burningman or #saas (software as a service).

4. Favoriting someone’s tweets until they follow me back.

Say we want to write about a new whiskey, but there’s no contact information for the brand anywhere except a fledgling Twitter account. I’ll favorite every tweet from that account until the brand notices and follows me. Then I’ll send the brand a direct message, and get the scoop on the whiskey without anyone noticing we were pursuing the story.

5. Responding to @ replies.

I get 1,000 emails a day. Why compete with 999 other emailers when you could tweet me and compete with only nine other people?

A zillion times out of a zillion I’ll reply on Twitter, and here’s why: Being forced to distill a pitch down to 140 characters or fewer is the ultimate PR exercise. It forces PR pros to cut all the crap (fake quotes from executives, 33 picture attachments, “Hi there, how was your weekend?”), and get to the nut of why I should care.

I’ve yet to get a PR pitch on Twitter I didn’t respond to. Meanwhile, I have 53,000 unread emails that I didn’t open after seeing the subject line and an eight-word email preview.

Grant Marek is a senior editor at Thrillist. Pitch him burgers, whiskey, and other generally awesome stuff on Twitter at @grant_marek. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a platform that helps companies and PR firms get press, receive email alerts when journalists tweet or write stories about them, and measure the success of their work.

Topics: PR

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