Not all tweets are created equal: an activity for beginning journalists and Twitter newbies

For lots of folks, Twitter is still more of a mystery or “second Facebook” than anything else. They’ve heard about the battle between Lady Gaga and Britney Spears for the most followers, or they read about the recent scandal when Mike Wise of The Washington Post deliberately sent a false tweet about Ben Roethlisberger. Seems like Twitter’s virtues aren’t getting nearly the same attention. How does any of this relate to scholastic journalism, and what do our students need to know?

It’s important for students to see the value of Twitter and the difference between using it to share information and breaking news compared to using it as a marketing tool to promote a media organization. Not all tweets are created equal. More advanced high school staffs may be using Twitter already but with primarily one type of tweet, such as covering a sporting event live, and now those staffs may be ready to expand their tweets to include other types.

This lesson and class activity, it’s okay to be a follower, invites students to explore the different ways individuals and organizations use Twitter. As students will see, different tweets serve different purposes. This is a fun introductory approach and requires students to make the comparisons and conclusions based on following four Twitter accounts.

When students are ready to tweet on their own, point them to this post from 10,000 Words: The top 7 mistakes new Twitter users make.

If your students know the basics and want help improving their tweets or planning live event coverage, this event tweet post from last spring might help, too.

And just for fun, check out Muck Rack for a collection of journalists on Twitter. Great way to see what the pros are saying and will likely lead to some important discussion.