Twitter is the probably the most significant and essential tool that has ever been created for journalists.  Not only is Twitter the fastest way for reporters to report breaking news, but it also allows journalists to communicate with their followers and network with other journalists.

There are a number or purposes for the use of Twitter, none more important than the aforementioned breaking of the news.  But beyond breaking news, Twitter can be used for different things other than just sharing, like allowing journalists to find ledes.  Often time’s journalists will search on Twitter for the daily happenings of their community, and then follow up on that news that was broken by a normal citizen.  Twitter can also be used for useful feedback on a journalist’s work by other journalists.  By posting a link to your own work via Twitter, other writers can comment, opening up the conversation between journalist and reader.

This brings up another good point as to why journalists should use Twitter, which is to “drive traffic to your content,” as Steve Buttry says.  Gaining an audience is a huge advantage of social media.  It’s a great way to get your name out there as a journalist.  Especially for young journalists like myself, creating a portfolio now, why I’m still in college, will pay huge dividends when it’s time to start looking for a job.  Also, by posting your own articles to Twitter and Facebook now rather than later, it’s gives you the time to gain a bigger audience before actually having that large platform that every journalist aspires to.

There are a few rules and guidelines to follow while using any social media platform, not just Twitter and Facebook, as cited in Briggs and Buttry.

First of all, it’s imperative to use your full name as well as cite where you work and live, when using these tools to project a professional tone about yourself.  It is possible to operate two separate Twitter accounts, one for work and one for leisure, but it’s all up to the individual.  The only rule is to keep your professional tweets professional.  You never know who will be looking at your profile.  Also, don’t protect your tweets, as Twitter works best when you are open and transparent, per Steve Buttry.

It’s important to share links as well when using Twitter as it allows you to share other blogs and interesting content with people that may share the same interests as you.  While linking can be useful, its important not to share the entire URL as it will take up precious space of the 140-character limit.

When it comes to balancing your personal and professional lives in social media, it has become increasingly difficult.  Everything we say on Twitter and Facebook is a representation of who we are as individuals as well as the organizations that we are affiliated with.  It’s simple, really, as I’ve heard numerous time from either my coach or professor, “don’t be a dumbass.”

Even retweeting is an endorsement of that person’s thoughts or feelings that represents the retweeter as well.  It is crucially imperative to be mindful of what you say on social media, as anyone and everyone have a possibility of seeing it.

One rule of my own that I’ve been following for years is to ask myself, “Would Mom approve of this?”  If not, don’t be a dumbass. Don’t put it on Facebook or Twitter.