Perfect Twitter for journalists? Take a masterclass from @ITVLauraK

is an actor, writer, comedian and social media consultant

My name is David Schneider and I’m a Twitter addict.

There. It’s always important to come out and say that at the start of any blog/support meeting. To try to justify all the time I spend online to my family, I’ve now started a company called Th@t Lot with professional tweeter David Levin (yes, there is such a thing as a professional tweeter).

One of the things we do is go into businesses and brands and empty out our bucket of Twitter tricks and observations. Even though I’m mainly a writer of jokes online, the same principles seem to apply whatever the sector (I’ve even exchanged a Twitter coaching session for five years free boiler servicing from the people who put in my boiler).

We give tips on obvious things like making sure you keep it short (personally I aim for around 100 characters rather than 140) and keep sounding like a human being, whatever your account (be short and human, like a jockey - that’s my top tip). And we advise on more advanced techniques like Twitter formats and live-tweeting.

As a news junkie myself, journalists are among my favourite follows (I can’t believe I just wrote 'follows' as a noun. I’m *so* 'new media' - see also my use of asterisks there. By 'follows' I meant, of course, 'people I follow').

A lot of journalists, especially those who write comment pieces, can be themselves as much as they want - @caitlinmoran or @fleetstreetfox, for instance - both of whom present themselves to us warts and all (where 'warts' include flair, controversy and occasional drunkenness).

Then you have journalists such as @Freedland or @sturdyAlex who maybe don’t show quite so much leg but offer content, links and opinion combined with occasional insight into their own lives.

But it’s easier for these ‘commenteers’ than for hard news journalists, especially those who are expected to be neutral. Just look at the furore that erupted back in August when Nick Robinson dared to tweet the following:

I remember seeing that tweet and smiling at the self-censoring asterisks in what for Twitter wouldn’t even begin to be long-listed as a swear word, but even then the tweet prompted some unwanted attention for Nick. After all, where was the BBC balance? What about the cockerel’s point of view in all this?

So it’s a very fine line to tread as a hard news journalist who’s first and foremost a provider of content on Twitter. Which is why I’m such a fan of Laura Kuenssberg (@ITVLauraK for just a while longer before she rejoins the BBC next month on Newsnight).

My theory on good Twitter writing is that whatever your account you should write as if you’re emailing a friend (bearing in mind this email can be read by anyone). From following @ITVLauraK I know nothing about her real life. But, even though all she’s doing is sharing hard core news facts, the way she writes makes you feel she’s your pal.

For all I know she spends 40 minutes honing each tweet, but there’s a relaxed spontaneity to them that gives the impression of a mate telling you something they’ve just heard. It’s perfect Twitter.

Take this tweet for instance:

“Blimey - Clive Adamson admits FSA knew of Rev Paul Flowers conviction from 1981 but stands by decision to approve him as Coop chair”

That “Blimey” at the start instantly gives us a glimpse of how she feels in such a human way. It’s not: 'Interesting development' or 'In an unusual admission…' Instead, we see and share her genuine passion for the story without any compromising of the story itself. In six characters. It’s Laura, our friend who brings us the news, sharing something. The same Laura who sometimes quickly wishes us “good morning” and tells us what’s coming up later that day:

“Morning - uncomfortable sessions in store for FCA on Project Verde and Gatwick on travel chaos - both up in front of MP s on what went wrong”

She’s relaxed about abbreviations, about informality, about typos. Her main goal is to tell us the story, as one person speaking to another. She doesn’t tend to engage that much with her followers through replies, but that’s fine. You feel that’s not her role. Her role is to bring us the news in a tone of voice that’s completely devoid of Day Today pomposity. She’s our news friend and a great advert for how Twitter should be done. Don’t go changing, @ITVLauraK.

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