Twitter can be overwhelming for students. Tweets, retweets, lists, hashtags and tweet chats are ideas that have seemingly made some of the students at the University of Memphis feel like they are living in a 140-character tornado. Nonetheless, the students in J4801 and J7200 participated in a cross-university Twitter Chat (#JRLWeb) involving students from Lehigh University and West Virginia University.
Dr. Carrie Brown-Smith (Memphis), Professor Bob Britton (WVU), Dr. Jeremy Littau (Lehigh) and Dr. Jonathan Groves (Drury University) facilitated the online chat asking the students to discuss their Twitter experiences over the past few weeks. The following is a snapshot of what went down in the #JRLWeb chat:
Q1: What’s your name, school, major, and secret ninja Twitter skill?
University of Memphis:
- Brennan Somers (Broadcasting; hashtagging)
- Ashley Akin (Internet Journalism; “I can drop kick anyone”)…Ashley later elaborated that she has no specific Twitter ninja skill, so she just went basic ninja skill.
- Elise Dillingham (Grad Student)
- Alexandra Pusateri (Journalism & International Studies; getting followers by being a cool cat)
- Ashley Wislock (Grad Student; no ninja skills yet, but working on it!)
- Mike Parker (Advertising)
- Joey Fairbanks (Newspaper/Magazine; hashtagging)
- Matthew Antwine (Public Relations; hashtags)
- Kathleen Fox (Online Sports Journalism)
- Walter Smith (Advertising; fashion tweetaholic)
- Nicole Blum (Broadcast; retweeting)
- Scott Hall (Journalism)
- Daniel Wilkerson (Broadcast Journalism)
- Josalyn Hoyle (English/ESL; invisibility)
- Raven Phillips (Broadcasting)
- Jessie Wilks (Braodcasting)
- Sheifalika Bhatnagar (Journalism/Psychology/Biology; puts the TWIT in Twitter)
- Chris Freitas (Broadcasting; hashtags and links)
- Louis Goggans (Print Journalism)
- Lauren Byrd (Public Relations; random twitpics)
- Allie Einsidler (Journalism, she too can drop kick anyone)
- Ben Hulac (Political Science; Twitter throwing stars)
- Alyssa Gutjahr (Journalism/Business; finding followers)
- Callie Burrows (Business/Entrepreneurship; observing learned twitterers)
- Devanna DiBacco
West Virginia University:
- Rodney Lamp (Broadcast News; Not knowing how to use Twitter is his skill)
- Toni Cekada (Print Journalism)
- Jonathan Vickers (Masters in Science Journalism; can hashtag with his mind)
- Corey Preece (Grad Student; loves taking pictures and uploading them to Twitter)
- Aaron Geiger (Grad Student; stalking with his anonymity skills)
- Melanie Hoffman (Print Journalism; retweeting at lightening speed)
- Lindsay (Broadcasting)
- Keri Gero (Broadcasting)
- Shay Maunz (Print Journalism; #pointlesshashtags)
- Deepa Fadnis (Grad Student, Editorial Journalism)
- Joshua Jazz Clark (making hashtags no one has ever used, ever)
- Eric Wadden (Broadcast Journalism; twit talent is having no twit talent)
- Derek Rudolph (Print)
- Kristen Wishon (Journalism Grad Student)
- Kirk (Journalism)
- Andrea Sauer (Broadcasting; creeping on people??)
- Shannon Teets
*Some people may have been left off of this list. If you are one of them, I apologize.
The #JRLWeb chat trended in 5 different cities.
Q2: What was the most surprising thing you learned from the Twitter Scavenger Hunt?
- Willingness: This question sparked a lot of conversation regarding the willingness of people to be interviewed for a “Twitter” reporter. Some students indicated that people seemed to be open to the idea of being quoted on Twitter. Others, such as Scott Hall, got a different feeling saying, “people weren’t willing to talk to you unless you work for the paper.”
- Interest in Social Media: Alyssa Gutjahr from Lehigh University noted that many of the people she talked to were interested in Lehigh’s Multimedia Reporting class and how the students were using Twitter for class assignments. I noticed this as well during the hunt at the University of Memphis. Some students noticed their followers commenting on the assignment, while a few followers even retweeted their pictures!
- Privacy: According to Memphis’ Kathleen Fox, some people were a bit reluctant to have their picture posted to a social media platform like Twitter. However, this must depend on the person and how receptive they are to social media because other students felt that people would go out of their way to be photographed for the assignment.almost
- Technology: Apparently, students discovered the value of smartphones. Almost all of them seemed to agree that this assignment would be nearly impossible without a smartphone. This discussion, as I figured it would, led into which phone is better…a typical battle between Droid and iPhone users. Quite a few students also learned how easy it is to post pictures with Twitpic!
- Content: A few students pointed out that adding pictures to your tweets make them more interesting to your followers. Putting a “face” to the news is critical in developing good content and helping readers connect with the story that is being covered.
Q3: Now that you’ve done 140-character journalism, what can you do next with that information?
- Teasers: Using Twitter as a teaser for an upcoming news story is a good way to draw readers to you blog, website, TV or radio station for the details.
- Research: A compilation of tweets can serve as research for a developing story or story idea. Additionally, connecting with people who retweet or @reply back to the journalist to discuss lends a hand to potential sources and other valuable resources.
The discussion went into a different direction and discussed how typing in 140 helps up-and-coming journalists to hone their skill:
- Conciseness: Typing in 140 helps journalists to become better writers for the web. Web users tend to shy away from feature article style and want to get more of the reader’s digest version of the story. (NOTE: Links within the articles allow those readers that want the play-by-play to get it from various places).
- Headlines: This conciseness helps journalists write better headlines…short, but informative. Learning to captivate an audience in such a short length is great practice for up-and-coming journalists! Grab the readers attention and give them a link to get more information.
Q4: What do retweets mean to you? How did you feel when you were retweeted? Why did you choose to retweet those that you did?
- Relevance: The general consensus from all of the students was that being retweeted means that they said something that other people found insightful, helpful, meaningful, etc. The flip-side to that, according to Brennan Somers…you may have been retweeted because you said something stupid.
- Relevance…again: It seems the students involved in this chat understand the power of good content. If the topic is newsworthy and they feel that their followers will gain something from it…they retweet! Not much explanation needed there!
Q5: We’ve seen so many examples over the past few weeks in Egypt, Libya, etc. What is the role of social media in social change?
- A Voice: A number of students pointed out that social media has the ability to bring a voice to those whose voice was either nonexistent or quiet in the past. Being able to connect to others who want to ignite the same social change allows that voice to be louder and literally become the voice heard around the world.
- An Uprising: With this voice comes action. Students noted that people in Egypt were able to meet IRL to demand action. Simply talking about social change and not being able to do something about it is a thing of the past. The students remarked that the use of social media allows collective groups to formulate events and plans to take action resulting in a massive change in the way things have been.
- International awareness: Many students pointed out that social media helped “Westerners” to become more aware of situations that were going on in Egypt. While major news stations had reporters on the scene, many of the pictures and videos being posted to the Web came from people “on the scene.” These may have been reporters, protesters or others in the community. The fact was, we were able to see pictures and videos of things that we may have missed otherwise. According to one student, this is how we see change in this decade of social media.
Q6: What is the most transformative thing Twitter has taught us about the way we gather/report news? How has it changed the business forever?
- Timeliness: Twitter and other social media have changed the way that journalists very deadlines and timeliness. With the news being 24/7 and more and more people becoming “citizen journalists,” journalists are now under the gun to make sure that they stay on top of current issues. Not only with developing their own stories but also keeping up with what readers are talking about. Find the trends. Get the scoop. Write the 140. Grab the readers attention. Break the story. And you have the all of the elements of a killer article.
- Two-Way Conversation: A few students commented on the fact that they now have increased access to their readers. Journalists now have a direct connection to their readers and can gain feedback and other points of view on stories they are covering.
- Pull vs. Push: The news is now aggregated by the readers. Rather than the media pushing selected articles or stories framed in a specific manner, social media allows readers to determine which stories they want to read/hear/see and gives them the opportunity to investigate them further.
Overall, this was a great chat, and I am so proud of the students for all they contributed.