Tweeting from behind the lines (of a paywall)

A sample of my Twitter feed and how I tweet about transportation

Fresh out of grad school, I feel like I understand the importance of Twitter to journalists–I mean we were practically beaten over the head with it–How to tweet breaking news, How to respond and engage readers on Twitter, why every journalist should know the proper way to Tweet. Even with all the helpful (and sometimes redundant) lessons, I don’t remember any of my professors offering tips on how to tweet when your news organization is behind a paywall.

That’s my current dilemma–Bloomberg BNA is a subscription service so even if I tweet links to my stories, only subscribers can access my work. A lot of my articles also run in the transportation section of Bloomberg Government (aka BGov), which is–you guessed it–a subscription service as well.

So what’s a girl to do? Run and hide from Tweetdeck, delete the app on my phone, try to forget about Twitter all together? Or what if I sit back silently as other transportation reporters tweet links to their non-paywall stories? No way!

Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way in the few (short) months I’ve officially been on the job:

  • Do the dirty work: Although some things are easily found with a quick web search, stakeholders sometimes appreciate you doing the work for them. For example, when I get a press release about the hearing schedule for congressional transportation committees, if a big hearing is coming up or an important person is testifying, I’ll tweet that information to my followers. Yes, they could easily go to the committee’s websites and find the same press release but sometimes they don’t have the time or don’t think to do that and appreciate your tweet.
  • Tell them something they don’t know: This is my favorite part about Twitter–I can use it to tell followers information I know that they may not. For instance, when Sen. Jim DeMint’s office emailed me to let me know he had decided to lift his hold on the candidate picked by Obama to lead the Federal Aviation Administration, I tweeted that information. DeMint had been blocking a full Senate vote on the nomination so this was important news, especially to folks that care about transportation and the FAA. I also wrote a story about DeMint lifting his hold and tweeted a link to that as well.
  • Give them a nugget: Often, when I’m talking to lawmakers, reporters will ask them about a variety of things and the congressmen (and women!) give exciting and colorful responses that don’t work in a story. For example, current House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica told reporters a few months ago to hold on to their “panties and pantaloons.” While I couldn’t use that quote in my story, I thought it made for a great tweet and provided followers with a “behind-the-scenes” nugget.

While it is difficult tweeting and working for a subscription news company, it’s possible and the challenge actually makes it more fun. I’ve learned I’m not using Twitter correctly is all I do is tweet links to my stories, which I know won’t be helpful to anyone who follows me on Twitter but doesn’t subscribe. Instead, I try to use Twitter as a way to reach out to others who might be interested in transportation but don’t have access to BNA or BGov. Who knows, maybe we’ll gain some subscribers along the way!

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