Of late I've been telling anyone who'll listen that the signal on Twitter has changed dramatically - matured, actually - since the platform's early days. And if you're developing a social media component to your firm's content strategy you should be aware of this change and solidly taking advantage of it.
The short version: over the past many months we've noticed more and more media types (reporters, writers, editors, and niche business bloggers) research their stories on Twitter. We see these media members contact our contributors after finding their written work - their content - while researching on Twitter. These social media-savvy journalists ask our contributors for permission to reprint, or for further clarification of various points, or simply for quotes or background source material.
It's a growing trend: press visibility via Twitter.
The point was reinforced for me today in an excellent piece by New York Times staffer, Daniel Victor, explaining on Medium how he helped a NYT reporter find multiple sources on Twitter for a story that became popular on the front page earlier this month.
Anyone working on a content strategy should regularly evaluate their signal to noise ratio on any given platform and calibrate their efforts accordingly. That's my sweeping abstraction and I'm sticking with it.
What I mean, of course: on all platforms signal versus noise is in constant flux. Obviously, one goal is to identify the signal and harness it; rise above the noise and be noticed.
Where is the signal? You should be asking this question on an ongoing basis. Signal and noise are in constant flux, as I said, and they are influenced by many factors, including: novelty (which has a short shelf life), adoption, a critical mass of majority users, changing technology, new features ... among other things. (One example regarding changing technology and the signal represented by Google search results: the rise of the mobile device. The signal has left the desktop and Google wants you to build accordingly...)
Another small example (among many) that we saw as true years ago: in Twitter's early days, the platform's follow notification system (an email: "You've been followed!") was almost a new-media direct marketing mechanism. Here's how it worked for us:
Noticing the adoption of Twitter as a broadcast tool by BBC, NPR, WSJ, NYT and others, we set up news feeds targeted at specific readers, and we said as much in the BIO descriptions for each of these channels (example: "Follow this for daily legal news covering HR and other workplace issues..."). We then sought out our early readers and followed them. That "follow" triggered an email to the person, who saw we had followed them, read our BIO, and opted to follow us back. We made ourselves known to early readers and they in turn decided whether or not to follow us back. Many did.
As strange as this might sound, aside from the tremendous (and ongoing) power of Twitter as a platform for engagement and conversation, one signal in the early days existed in that email notification. The novelty has since worn off. (To say nothing of massive adoption, which means that now we all get so, so many more such follow notes, usually relegated to a spam folder, that we barely notice them.) In the early days, people noticed. That's one way we got first followers in our now robust and mature news feeds.
So, the question becomes: where is the Twitter signal in 2015?
Well, it remains in the ease of engagement between people who can participate in a social conversation, report on what's happening around them, share their insights, or forward (aka retweet) interesting things they've read from other people and news sources.
But, another extraordinarily powerful signal on Twitter is the discovery available via search. (Even more so in the last few months since the settling of differences between Google and Twitter to get more tweets into Google search results.) And, specifically for our contributors: not just search, but search as used by media members investigating their own stories. As I said, we've seen this at play for quite some time now. Reporters find sources via content shared on Twitter.
Daniel Victor's Medium piece focused on how he helped a New York Times reporter find airline passengers via Twitter. The focus of the story is on how reporters can find their sources and it gets pretty specific with regard to finding individuals tweeting their own experiences; even so, the big takeaway for professionals sharing their written work: you'll achieve visibility through smart keywords and search.
Today, anyone who cares about meaningful visibility for their writing (their content, their expertise, their corporate journalism - call it what you will) should include Twitter more than ever in their plans. (That and good titles to help get you discovered for your useful insights.)
Why? Among other reasons, the signal is in search.
(See: The one word journalists should add to Twitter searches that you probably haven’t considered - by Daniel Victor)
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