Which journalists aren’t worth engaging with on Twitter?


Consider the following argument:

Most journalists are on Twitter.

PRs should therefore spend more time “engaging” with journalists on Twitter.

Seems to make logical sense (from a PR standpoint).

Except that just because a journalist has a Twitter account, loads of followers and Tweets for Britain, doesn’t mean that PRs should attempt to interact and engage with every relevant journalist on Twitter.  The reason being that some are far more likely to share your content and actually talk to you than others.

But how do work out which is which?

One way is to use a tool like Twitonomy.

For example, look at the following analysis of Charles Arthur, The Guardian’s Technology Editor.

charles1

Over the last two months, he has Tweeted (on average) nearly 55 times per day. From an engagement standpoint, he certainly seems to mention other people a lot – and 74pc of his Tweets are actually @ replies to other people. So as a PR, you might think this is a good way to have a dialogue with him (better still of course, would be to get him to follow you – then you can have private DM conversations).

However, Charles hasn’t shared that many links in the last two months – so the chances that he is going to share that press release of yours is going to be pretty low. He doesn’t ReTweet that much either – so don’t get your hopes up on that front.

Going back to Charles’ propensity to reply to people, Twitonomy also reveals who has had the most conversations with in the last two months:

charles2

Not may PR people in that group (Charles himself has already pointed out that he doesn’t think this tells us much – other than that the community of people he has talked to via Twitter over the last two months is pretty broad).

If you were determined to have a go at interacting with Charles, Twitonomy also reveals those times when he most likely to Tweet (and thus presumably be online and on Twitter):

charles3

Based on this analysis, 11pm on Friday night.

Clearly, you need to use these metrics with caution. These stats only relate to the last two months. Even if they did range over a wider time frame, how much you can actually infer from this is a moot point. And a cynic might argue that rather than poring over this kind of data, someone trying to get Charles’ attention would be better off investing their time in actually coming up with a decent story angle.

Having said that, I do think tools like Twitonomy – when used appropriately – can be a useful guide to PRs who want to work out the propensity of target journalists to share links, engage in dialogue and/or RT content.

And armed with this knowledge, PRs can allocate engagement resources appropriately. If the end result is better targetting and more effort in giving journalists more relevant and timely information, surely that can’t be a bad thing.

What do you think? Is there something in this? Or is it complete hokum? The comments box awaits your answer.

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Comments

  1. Charles Arthur says:

    Sorry, but as the person who has actually been doing the tweeting, I’d have to say that these feel quite misleading. It’s easily put off by conversations – some of them brief but consisting of a lot of tweets in a flurry – that misrepresent where my *attention* is. Of those 10 you listed as the ones I “most interact with” **in this limited time of the analysis**, I only follow 5, for example (and in total I follow 841 people right now). If you’d done it about 18 months ago you’d have thought LulzSec’s Sabu was my new best mate. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Bad inference which mistakes dialogue for attention.

    As to links – I tweet a lot of links, I think – through RTs, plus every story I write. More to the point, what is the average for tech writers/journalists/people on Twitter for link sharing? 10 per 100 tweets? 90 per 100? The comparison is made in a vacuum. Ditto for RTs – what average number of tweets are RTs among tech journos?

    And honestly, 11pm on a Friday is absolutely not the best time to get me. (I think there’s an hour-shift error in there, as well. That’s not a peak time for tweeting by my recollection – unless it’s measure auto-tweeted stories.) I recall a similar analysis of my tweets which suggested that Wednesday morning was the best time to get me.

    Twitter is human-powered. Far better to go and watch the person you want to engage with and do it from there. Knowing how much they RT etc isn’t as informative as simply looking at their timeline for the past 200 tweets (which is what you’ll get by looking at their Twitter profile.)

    Too easy to overthink this stuff – just because the data is there doesn’t mean it’s been analysed correctly, or even that what you can pull out of it has any meaning.

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  2. Charles – thanks for commenting – as ever appreciate the time you’ve taken to look at this.

    I take your point about over thinking things. Then again, is all of this data entirely useless? Presumably there has be happy mix of relevant data and old fashioned observation that can help PR folk do a better job?

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    • Charles Arthur says:

      The basic thing is (a) look at what stories they write (b) look at their bio and any website in there (c) look at who they’ve been communicating with (d) look at whether they tweet their stories there (e) look at whether they seem to interact with people or if it’s just broadcast (f) look at how often they tweet, particularly during weekdays, which are probably their workdays (g) look at how many followers they have (h) look at how many they follow (i) look at their lists, if any (j) look at their favourites, if any. No lists and no favourites to me suggests someone who hasn’t quite grasped its full use. Oh, and (k) look at which client they use – if it’s just “web” then either they’re in an office environment, or they’re not that engaged.

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  3. Where I see tools like this being useful are in narrowing down a long list to a short list. The process Charles describes in his last post is great, but that’s very manual and be quite time consuming, especially if you are unfamiliar with a new subject area or market and you have dozens or even hundreds of journalists to work through when deciding who might be worth engaging with on twitter. Automated tools aren’t really going to tell you who is influential or who is worth engaging with but they can give signals about who might be. Once you have used the tool to flag up a dozen or so potentials then perhaps it is worth using a more manual process like Charles outlines, all of which are good points.

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    • Hi Alistair – you are right about the manual process element – it is time and labour intensive – tough trying to persuade people to bankroll that kind of activity any more – agree that the right tools can at least reduce the time and the cost of getting to a point where you deploy people on spending their time as effectively as possible on proper research.

      On a side point, I know a cynic might ask why a client or org would hire PRs who were unfamiliar with the market or the journalists serving that market – but we all know the reality of that scenario ;)

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  4. Charles has already made many of the points that I would have. But my two pennarth is that PR people (with some notable exceptions) are rubbish at data. Data is good.Data provides you with insight. But data doesn’t provide you with answers. Data can contain errors. Data needs to be interpreted. What data does is enable PR people to make more formed decisions,but it is always the experience and expertise that makes it a good or bad decision.

    Tools like Twitonomy and lots of others should be a vital part of a PR professionals armoury, but only if that PR person is sufficiently savvy to use them well.

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  1. [...] (does he RT? Does he @? When is he most active?). This leads to a number of suggestions for how PRs should engage with journos on Twitter. It starts to get interesting though when Charles responds in the comments to the post and provides [...]

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