Using Twitter Chats to Build Your Network

Although I am not teaching Journalism 121: Advanced Writing and Reporting this semester, which means I am not teaching the class that has spurred many of my blog posts, I’m still incorporating the same types of strategies, tools and journalism fundamentals into my other classes. Because not to would be foolhardy.

One such tool skill fundamental I’ve been hitting hard in our basic writing and reporting class is social media, specifically Twitter. To increase my own skills, I just completed the Knight Center for Journalism in the America’s MOOC on social media. (And by the way, I am not at all a naysayer of MOOCs, at least the ones the Knight Center does.) What I’ve found is that although my students use social media anyway, most of them are on Instagram or Facebook, instead of Twitter, and few of them understand how to use Twitter to report, build a network or communicate with an intended audience.

To get these beginning students up to speed, I’ve required a Twitter component to the class which involves tweeting a minimum number of tweets about things newsworthy to our campus.  So far, so good.  Well, sort of.  Many of them frequently forget–they just aren’t in the habit of using Twitter.  (The ones who use Twitter for personal reasons tend to be better at this part.) To remedy that (mildly), I have taken to conducting Drop Everything and Tweet sessions.  Despite this, they still don’t see the full reach and power in their tweets. I’m also having them participate in the #JRLWeb scavenger hunt. This will connect them to other schools (mostly universities, another element I want to expose my community college students to).

However, what I really want is for them to build their personal (and professional) learning networks and understand how Twitter has the power to connect them to people to whom they would not normally have access. As I thought about how to do this, I thought about my own experiences with Twitter. And what I came to is that engaging in a Twitter chat is one effective way to connect with and expand your community.  So, I had them participate in @PBSMediaShift‘s #edshift chat last week.  Although the chaotic nature of the Twitter chat was disorienting for many of them, I think it also gave them a sense of Twitter’s equalizing quality: Media professionals and educators wanted to know what they thought.  In the end, several of my students’ comments made it into the Storify.

That’s the beauty of Twitter chats: Everyone’s welcome.  I’ve felt that on the other chats I’ve participated in, even not being a “regular.” Want to get your students (or yourself) into the discussion? You can.  Twitter chats exists every day on a variety of topics, giving us all a chance to build our professional and personal networks, while truly being “heard” in the process.  It’s a win-win for all involved.  And if you can’t find one that’s a good fit, moderate your own.

A Sampling of Twitter Chats for Journalists and Journalism Educators:

Web Journalist #wjchat: Wednesdays at 5 p.m. PT

PBS Ed Shift #edshift:  1st and 3rd Fridays of the month at 1 p.m. ET

Digital First Media #dfmchat: Wednesdays at noon ET

#JournChat: Mondays at 8 p.m. ET

Can’t keep all these chats in your head? Try following a Twitter account like @ChatSalad for chat reminders. And if you really want to get in deep (read: spend all your time on Twitter chats instead of doing things like, say, feeding your cat, cooking dinner or putting your children to bed), try this 2012 list of chats for journalists. Just check to make sure the hashtags, times, etc. still exist.

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About Nancy Kaplan-Biegel

I am the journalism program coordinator at Skyline College in San Bruno, CA, as well as the adviser to The Skyline View.

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