We can all learn a lot from the ways news people use Twitter

I had an interesting discussion the other day with some very intelligent people about the usefulness of  Twitter for business .   Although Twitter seems to be mentioned every time I turn on the TV, or read the news, some business people are still reluctant to integrate Twitter into their business operation and social media strategy.

Twitter is kind of a Zen thing – looks pretty simple on the surface, with its 140 character messages, but lends itself to much higher planes of knowledge, influence and engagement, and, dare I say, self-understanding.    There are 3 levels of engagement on Twitter, all with a special importance:  Listening, Sharing, and Creating.   Looking for people locally who seem to reap benefits from Twitter, I was drawn to the news media.  I asked a few hard working TV journalists to tell me how they use Twitter (via a tweet).   The way they use Twitter could teach business people some lessons.

Melissa Moon of  News Channel 3 – WREG uses Twitter to reach out to her audience.  She can post photos, video and commentary (140 characters) from the sites of stories she is covering – sometimes hours before the stories hit conventional mass media. She creates content from the scene, real time.  Does that give her and News Channel 3 an advantage over competitors not Tweeting?  You bet it does.  And Twitter is it’s own medium.  What you put out there can be consumed by anyone with the wherewithal to locate it – through following or search.  And that goes for what the competition puts out there too.

natasha tweetNatasha Chen, also of News Channel 3, emphasizes the real-time nature of twitter as a 2-way communication tool.  As business people, we put a lot of effort into getting our message out to the public, but many times there is greater benefit in just listening to “feel the pulse of what people find important”.  Both Natasha and Melissa mention promoting stories.  A well crafted “teaser”  can cause a lot of  tweeters  to click  your link.  That could be classified as sharing.   “A lot of news [is] told first on Twitter” – not just what’s happening in your community and the world, but what’s happening in business, entertainment, politics, social justice, and every other area of human endeavor.  It is common now for the biggest news stories worldwide to be broadcast first on Twitter.  Can you see how you might create  some interesting news about your product or service?  Natasha and Melissa also mention monitoring the competition.  If you want to know how your competitors are using Twitter, follow them  – Listen.

My friend (and stalker) Keli Rabon of News Channel 3 responded in a few more than 140 characters via  a Facebook message.  Keli is a listener and Twitter helps her stay on top of issues and stories, responding as they develop:

We can’t be everywhere at once, so it’s really helpful to know what’s going on in many different venues practically in real-time. Whether it’s a county commissioner offering the play by play of the meeting, an alert from MFD about a two-alarm fire, or a citizen complaining about the roach in their food at a buffet, all of these things can be excellent story generators and help us cover news in an unprecedented way.

I continue to meet people who think Twitter is stupid or are put off by in in some way.  Twitter can help you with your business or cause, and can keep you on the cutting edge of news on any topic.  Tweeters who have been immersed in the medium for a while know the importance of  following the  Creators and Sharers most relevant to their interests and needs, and Listening to “feel the pulse”.   Users  who can feel that pulse find the ratio of Listening, Sharing and Creating that works best for them.

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Joe Spake is a Memphis-based Real Estate Broker and Consultant. He blogs at Joe Spake's Weblog and Memphis Real Estate Buzz. Joe's Social Network.