If you were driving to go to a job interview in a new city, would you forget to research the company, get into your car wearing ripped jeans, and not bother to bring a GPS or a map?
But every day, aspiring journalists set up Twitter accounts exactly that way, hoping to attract business that never comes.
Some of us leave Twitter’s default images of eggs up as our profile photos.
Some of us use Twitter to post about our nightlife and coffee habits. If nightlife and coffee aren’t part of your beat, it’s generally best not to post about them much.
Some of us aren’t sure what we want our niches or beats to be, so we post randomly about anything – and follow anyone. This is also not a good idea. In journalism, specialists earn more than generalists, I find.
Some of us use Twitter to be one-way communicators – broadcasting our own content, but never retweeting or interacting. But on Twitter and in real life, being a good listener is part of being a good conversationalist.
Some of us are drawn into controversial conversations that are unrelated to our beats or interests. Keep a sticky note up as a reminder not to join these discussions, if necessary. Unless you want to become known as highly political, don’t go there. And if a troll starts bothering you, handle it sensibly and move on.
But perhaps most importantly, many of us really don’t know how to plumb the depths of Twitter’s search and list features to find the hashtags and search terms that could be valuable to us.
Did you know you can make a large list of your competitors by looking for keywords related to your specialty and adding your fellow writers to a new list?
Did you know you can make a list of potential sources by looking up keywords related to your beat or to target organizations?
Did you know you can make a list of potential employers and their staff? Look for hiring managers and be sure to include them. Search for keywords related to employers – or names of their organizations.
My favorite list contains tweets from a group of news editors whose work I admire. My main career goal is to edit news websites and magazines, so I am watching my peers and role models to see what they are posting.
You can also use keyword searches related to articles you have written or topics you want to follow.
Is there a conference you’ve missed this week? Look up the conference hashtag, search for it, and take notes or participate in the conversation.
Finally, don’t forget to look up hashtags like #journalismjobs, #scicomm, and #mediadiversity when you are job hunting. Or try combinations of words – like “journalism job Chicago” without the quotes.
This post is loosely based on insights from a Twitter workshop I delivered for Science Writers of Western Massachusetts on June 27, 2015. For more info about our group, please visit our Facebook page. For details about my journalism and teaching experience, please visit my LinkedIn bio.