The Sports Media’s Guide To Twitter

Sports reporters might make up one of the heaviest users of Twitter among media types. It can be a tremendous resource for both the reporter and for their followers. Right now, there simply is no quicker way to pass along information to your target audience.

On the other hand, the immediate ability to relay your thoughts isn’t always such a good thing. It can be easy to alienate your audience, or turn them off when you decide to push your own opinion or agenda too far. Combine that with way too much personal information and boring mundane details of everyday life, and it’s a sure formula to get plenty of people hitting the “unfollow” button.

Readers don’t generally care about your thoughts on Jersey Shore, where you ate last night, how bad your hotel room was, or multiple retweets of news that Adam Schefter has broken ahead of you. (Note to Patriots reporters - if someone is following you, there’s a good chance they’re also following Schefter, so they got the newsflash he broke at the same moment you did.)

A BSMW reader passes along the following advice/observation: 

Before hitting the tweet button, they should think, Will the random reader have any interest in this or am I just a clueless self-centered moron by sharing this? Instead, there seems to be a general feel that the followers view them as H.L. Mencken-types who are captivating figures worthy of great interest beyond the actual news and insights they’re supposed to be providing.

A little harsh, but accurate, I think.

Here are the biggest things I think sports media types should do/not do to increase their own value, and avoid turning off followers.

Keep two Twitter accounts – one for your professional life, and one for you personal life.

I’m frankly surprised that more news organizations don’t require this. If you’re Tweeting as a member of the media, you’re representing your employer, and that doesn’t stop when you decide to riff about Snooki, or reminisce about your college days with your buddies, or give us updates on your nephew’s basketball game.

Newsflash - Most people are following you because they want information and news from you. They really don’t care about you as a person, they care about you as an information source. Plain and simple.

Keeping two Twitter accounts seems like the ideal solution. You can have a professional one which is strictly your outlet for passing along information and opinions on the subject matter you cover, AND a personal one which is followed by your friends and family, where you can yak it up and tell them every detail about your life.

If two accounts seems like a hassle, there are plenty of Twitter apps that allow you to simultaneously manage multiple accounts. You can post to both right from the same interface. Even from your phone.

What’s even better is that you can make your personal  account private, only allow the people you want to see the Tweets see them, and say whatever the hell you want to.

Try to refrain from whining too much on Twitter.

Yesterday was a perfect example of this. In fact, it happens on the Patriots beat in particular all the time. Even though this is on-topic for the work you do, it doesn’t reflect well on you when you’re constantly complaining about your working conditions or lack of locker room access or that they’re serving pizza in the press box, again. Let’s keep it professsional, people. Think before you Tweet.

Limit the “in jokes” among your colleagues.

We all like to tweak the people we work with from time to time. Maybe you like to make references to past embarassments or experiences that are only known to people who were there. Even though this is “on the job,” it probably belongs in your personal Twitter feed. If your account is private and so is theirs, you can call Belichick every expletive in the book, and it will be perfectly fine. Your professional followers won’t have a clue, and will still think you’re a rational, objective journalist.

Boston Sports Media Must-Follows

These folks “get it.” They keep things professional for the most part, and are highly informative. One for each of the local professional teams:

@SherrodbCSN – One of my favorites on Twitter, A. Sherrod Blakely is informative, engaging and endlessly patient with those who want to know if Rasheed Wallace is coming back.

@PeteAbe – Peter Abraham is a prolific Red Sox Tweeter, both in game and during the day. He’s opinionated, but keeps things almost exclusively baseball.

@capeleaguer – Christopher Price has it right, I think. I follow him on both Twitter and Facebook, and he uses Twitter for Patriots/Professional stuff, and Facebook for personal. Good balance.

@HackswithHaggs – Joe Haggerty is a Twitter monster. Yeah, he occasionally goes off-topic, but his Bruins information is prolific.

  • Tiffany

    "Try to refrain from whining too much on Twitter. "
    I cant stop laughing… literally 2 minutes after I read this post, I saw this pop up on Twitter:
    Greg_A_Bedard Greg A. Bedard: The NO airport, especially the Delta counter & security, are an epic fail. I've never seen so many people standing around doing nothing

    • HighWireNickEsasky

      One other twitter commandment for sportswriters (or anyone else for that matter): never use the term "epic fail."

  • classless

    Nailed it Bruce, especially the overload of retweets. I guess they maked the reporters who got scooped feel involved?

  • APimpNamedDaveR

    <rant incoming>

    Better still, why not, you know, actually post these things on THEIR FREAKING WEBSITES??????

    Twitter is what it is — narcissistic verbal masturbation. Sometimes that can disseminate information; most of the time, it does not. I can understand how Twitter is useful for people/organizations that do not have easy ways to quickly disseminate information to their fans/customers — e.g. celebrities, who otherwise would have to wait until an interview or a press release to let people know they really, really feel bad for tsunami victims, etc.

    But these are sportswriters, WHO ARE AFFILIATED WITH MAJOR MEDIA OUTLETS. There's no reason — ZERO — why these people should have to use Twitter at all for disseminating information related to their jobs. If I'm Peter Abraham, why am I not putting the Twittered information on the Extra Bases blog? Twitter should be ONLY personal info — everything else should be going onto their employer's website. It's not that difficult to set up a "news feed"-like place that can be used for Twitter-like updates. Why are media outlets allowing this core content to be offloaded onto Twitter?

    I agree 100% with Bruce's suggestions on Twitter usage…. but the problem is, that's precisely what Twitter ISN'T for. Twitter is all about whining, and narcissism, and off-topic diversions. Because the place for the real news… IS THE REAL NEWS SITE.

    If I'm running the Globe or the Herald or the EEI website, I'm sitting down with my reporters and telling them, point blank, "If there's something you feel the need to Twitter, it should be on our website. I don't want to read ANY news generated by our resources on Twitter that isn't already on the site. Twitter is for our competition to forward links to our site's news, not for us to originate news. End of discussion." They can Twitter all they want about Jersey shore and Delta ticket counters, but job-related news items go to the website, PERIOD.

    This isn't just a Twitter etiquette problem, it's lazy organization.

    </rant off>

    • Jon

      *slow applause*

    • tl;dr

      I agree 100%.

  • Big Jeff

    Hey Pimp – not a bad point but I think in most cases, certainly in the examples of good Twittering that Bruce mentions, their informational tweets almost always contain links to their employer's website and a larger blog post. There are occasions when it doesn't, like when Haggerty tweets that Tim Thomas will start in goal tonight or whatever, but I think the good users do indeed send readers to the primary blog more often than not.

    • APimpNamedDaveR

      Big Jeff: A fair point, but only sometimes is that true. More often than not, it isn't.

      For example, Pete Abe Twittered a fairly important story: that the rumors that (Hey Hey Hey It's) Matt Albers had been released so he could play in Japan are false per Theo.
      http://twitter.com/PeteAbe/status/506724189262315

      As of right now (6:30), I don't see anything on Extra Bases. Shouldn't a key "get" like that be on the Blog first, not included later after Twittering? Not to pick on Peter or anything — he's a good beat writer. It's a failure of the Globe, I think. If I were running the Globe's online presence, I'd be furious about stuff like this. Why is Twitter getting views that my website should be getting?

      I, as a Red Sox news consumer, got that information not from the Globe, but from a note about the tweet on MLB Trade Rumors. That's a clickthrough that the Globe lost, and that MLBTR and Twitter gained. That, to me, is bad business.

  • Jack

    This doesn't have anything to do with Twitter, but I thought I'd post that the February radio ratings are out. http :www.radio-info.com/markets/boston It looks like 98.5 took another nosedive. At the risk of revealing my schadenfreud, I hope this has something to do with Felger.

  • CBK

    Joe Haggs is great on Twitter half the time, and completely irrational the other half. The Bruins win a game, and he anoints them Cup contenders. They lose a game, and he thinks Claude Julien should be tarred and featherd (HYPERBOLE people, I know).

    Also, while it bothers me when Schefter reports something and then Reiss/Rap/Bedard/Shalise/Curran re-tweet it or reiterate it in their own words, I think it's a necessary evil. They all have their own unique followers and I'm sure that their respective bosses will be able to say, "well at least we beat ESPNBoston, the Herald, CSNNE, and NESN on this one." It's all a competition.

    All in all, I think you did a very good job with this post, though I still think you're way too thin-skinned with the Patriots.

    • tl;dr

      I think Patriot reports are too thin-skinned with the Patriots.

  • doug gabriel

    great post Bruce but i'm surprised you didn't list mike reiss in your must follow section. i think reiss' feed already abides by the guidelines you suggest (while ian rapoport's is a master class in what not to do).

    and is it just me or has adam schefter's 24/7 doom and gloom CBA tweets made him so painful to follow?

    • http://www.bostonsportsmedia.com Bruce Allen

      Reiss is outstanding, of course. He is the model "professional" Tweeter. I guess I assumed most Patriots fans were already following him.

      • tl;dr

        Nope,. I'm a pretty hard-core Pats fan and I don't follow anyone on Twitter and have no plans to do so in the future.

  • JohnnyApps

    My problem with Twitter is that media types fail to actually verify information, or even properly research something, in their race to be the first to break news (real, interesting, newsworthy news, and the mundane, Belichick missed breakfast, non news. Journalistic integrity is lost wtih Twitter. That's why it's more of a gimmicky tool that will never replace actual reporters reporting the news via website articles and tv/radio.

  • tl;dr

    Uggh, I hate Twitter. Listening to media types talk on and on about it is really annoying. I know no one who uses or follows anyone on Twitter. I know that makes me sound like an old fuddy-duddy but really I'm actually in the age range of people who use it and I'm technologically savvy.

    • Jon

      Crap, I agree with you. My wife dragged me into Facebook, I'm resisting Twitter with every fiber of my being…

  • Herbie

    Solid read, but I disagree with one aspect: Having two accounts. A follower on average will not distinguish a media type's personal or professional life. In all likelihood, the media type regardless where he or she tweets – be it on a secure/locked personal page or a professional page – will always be viewed primarily as a representative of a media organization.

    Still, I don't see anything wrong with a sports reporter injecting his or her personality in tweets or even what he or she is up to on occassion. I don't believe Twitter users want to follow a robot. A personal tweet simply has to pass the "What would my editor or news director or any corporate HR/PR person following me say?" test. If the pit in the stomach starts moving up, then the tweet likely isn't good.

    As a wise news director once shared with me long ago: "You live in a glass house and cover the news. Don't become it."

  • AllThingsPats

    Great post Bruce. I can immediately think of several local reporters that perfectly fit your examples listed above from just the last few days.

    I felt when Twitter first started that it would be a great way to tease with a headline, accompanied by a link that would drive your audience to your desired website; I still feel today that is what Twitter should be for any business, including sports reporting websites.

    I consciously avoided Twitter until giving in about a month ago. I have found that there are many reporters who spend so much time on Twitter I honestly have no idea when they find the time to ever write a column. The site is extremely habit forming and can be as addictive as a narcotic drug. To repeat/paraphrase what was already stated, it appears the problem is that those reporters' managers doing a poor job of supervising their staff. Unless a person is a freelance reporter being paid per published article rather than being on a salary, it is a failure of the newspaper or magazine to permit their employees to be driving their audience to Twitter without any redirect back to the website that they are receiving their paycheck from.

    It's up to the employer to reinforce the principle that Twitter is a marketing tool to drive an audience to their website so those customers can see their business partner's advertisements. If the employer fails to get that message across to their employees then they have nobody but themselves to blame when their customers get redirected to other sites.

  • leo

    Haggs is the worst at twittting. Selfcenteted bafoon.

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