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Five Twitter techniques from sports journalists

October 27, 2011

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Imitation truly can be the greatest form of social media flattery.

By Rebekah Monson

I’m a diehard college football fan, so at this time of year, my Twitter feed is littered with snippets of conversation about teams, players, games, stats and standings. My unhealthy obsession has led me to follow a lot of sports journalists, and in the process I’ve noticed that they often get more traction out of their Twitter accounts than their colleagues in the business section.

Here are some to follow to see how they do it. Muckrack: Sports Journalists on Twitter

If you spend a little time following sports journalists, it’s easy to spot a few techniques that really work for them on Twitter:


Their Twitter feeds suggest that many sports journalists watch sports all the time. That’s not true, of course, but I think they do a better job of staying connected during odd hours than business journalists. If they’re off-duty, they tweet on other games, injury reports or stories related to their beat. But, engaged reporters of all types spend a lot of off-duty time cultivating relationships with sources, reading stories that relate to their beats, watching relevant movies or T.V. shows, checking out new businesses and generally thinking about work when they’re technically off-duty. Constant curiosity about our work is sort of a journalism job hazard. Share those interests on your Twitter feed as they happen. Twitter followers opt in because they’re curious about the same things we are, and curiosity doesn’t stop at deadline.


Sports journalists have thoughts about every player, every play, every staff member on a team. They’re encouraged to pick winners and losers each week, and their job is to analyze performances.  at every level of a game. I know that we can’t afford to be quite so opinionated on the business side of the newsroom, but raising questions of businesses and analyzing a company’s performance is definitely our duty. Still, many reporters fear putting their reasoned, researched thoughts out into the world on Twitter because 140 characters affords such minimal context. Here’s the secret: Tweet more. If it takes five tweets for clarification, use them. If people ask questions, answer them. Your analysis is valuable to your followers. Like the sports reporter who gets to ask questions of the guy who dropped the ball, you have access to businesses that your followers lack.


Many sports journalists get a boost from live coverage, because a lot of their audience watches the game they’re working. But, some of my favorite tweeters are the local high school sports reporters who sing the praises of kids who may never get on T.V. When you get an opportunity to cover something live — a meeting, a conference, a product launch or a big event — don’t pass it up. Giving your audience live coverage gives your Twitter feed immediacy and exclusivity. Not every event is the next Apple launch, but that little local trade show has valuable information for your audience too.


Every reporter expects that readers will disagree with angles and coverage, but Twitter allows them to do so publicly. I’ve noticed that sports journalists are often really good about responding to questions and retweeting their critics, but i often see news and business writers shy away from engaging in this way. Embracing debate rather than ignoring it demonstrates  that you’re listening to your followers and that you respect their opinions, even if you don’t agree with them.


Of all the journalists I follow, the sports journalists seem quickest with a joke. Having a sense of humor about yourself and your work helps your followers remember that a human being lives behind the avatar. When you take joy in your work, share it with your readers.


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