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A Good Way to Respond on Twitter

Recently there has been a spate of bad stories about companies completely messing up the response to tweets on Twitter. As a user myself I see my share of that. But sometimes good conversations come out of it, as was the case with one of our local news stations.

BayNews9 is a local Tampa, FL news station providing 24-hour news on one of the local cable channels. Their website is clean, easy to use, and most importantly, frequently updated, so I get a lot of my local news from them. In addition to their site, they have a Twitter account, @bn9 which they use to post upcoming stories, breaking news alerts, and anecdotes throughout the day.

Normally I ignore the meaningless drivel type tweets such as “All this rain is making me sleepy! :) ~Jody”. But occasionally tweets cross the line from personal messages to actual bias in the stories they are reporting on. Some examples:

This bothers me mainly because I want my news to be news, not a biased report of the news. I want to see solid journalistic integrity. For example, the first two tweets – instead of opinion, they could do some research to see if it was possible to sue the county, under which cases other people had done it, and how that applied here, and done it in a pretty neutral way. Same with the second – don’t give your opinion, go interview fans and find out if there’d be a “public outcry”. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, of course, but if you are posting tweets from your news agency’s official Twitter account, it should be focused on the journalistic side, not the “Let’s throw something and see if it sticks” side.

In general, I care, but not enough to actually write a letter to the editor or anything. After all, it’s just a Twitter account for goodness sakes. But one recent Tweet (which has since been deleted) happened to come in while I was in front of a Twitter client, so I did a simple @ reply suggesting that they not use opinions in their tweets. I may have been a little harsh, but I want to be able to trust them:

@BN9 I’m so glad that a news organization can share every little opinion with us here on twitter instead of reporting news w/o bias.

What could have transpired was a nasty conversation that would have led to them being in the news headlines somewhere. Instead what transpired is an example of what to do as an organization using Twitter.

Initially I got an apologetic reply from the poster. But then about an hour later I got a direct message from Al Ruechel asking about how they could improve. We eventually exchanged email addresses, and we were able to have a great conversation about Twitter in general, how BayNews9 is using Twitter, and ways to more effectively use it. For example:

  • Create accounts for each anchor using the service now – @bn9_al, @bn9_leigh, etc. Let them write whatever they want there. It actually would help in another way – everyone posting to the @bn9 account wouldn’t have to sign their name
  • Have the @bn9 account retweet upcoming stories or links posted from the individual accounts. That would remind people about the other accounts, and keep them from having to cross post
  • Use or create a Twitter client which makes it easy to switch between accounts, and could even schedule an auto-retweet for certain tweets (for example, @bn9_al could say, “Big surprise in the NFL Draft coming up on the 9pm show”, and then click a button which would post that, and then post a retweet using the @bn9 account)

To me, this was a great response because a good conversation and connection happened, and even if they don’t change anything at all, I got the chance to feel like I was heard. And sometimes, that’s all people want.