Welcome to the age of #TfN

By Addison Walton
It’s been quite the last few weeks for social media. First, Facebook+Journalists has become a great way for journalists to connect on the world’s leading social networking site. Then Google launched Google+ into its beta phase and people around the world are “hanging out” and learning of the benefits of this new tool.

Of course, Twitter got in on the action as well. It has developed tools and guides to make newsrooms run more smoothly and information flow more accurately. It’s called Twitter for Newsrooms or #TfN for short.

Designed to unite journalists across multiple platforms, #TfN has a very simple yet effective mission statement. “Twitter and #TfN can be a common ground — and we know Twitter is a tool all journalists can use to find sources faster, tell stories better, and build a bigger audience for their work.”

While that statement rings true, it’s another passage from #TfN’s opening remarks that impresses me even more. “We want to make our tools easier to use so you can focus on your job: finding sources, verifying facts, publishing stories, promoting your work and yourself—and doing all of it faster and faster all the time.” This type of streamlining is perfect for the new journalism world. As someone who relies on Twitter more and more for news, #TfN should really help and improve the way news works on Twitter. That said, let’s take a look at the three major parts to #TfN.

The first subsection of #TfN is the reporting guide. Developers of #TfN recommend four Twitter tools to help reporters do multiple things in the area of reporting. Aside from advance searching features, Twitter developers recommend three applications to help the newsroom process. First, they speak highly of their newly-acquired Tweetdeck and the very helpful Twitter for Mac. Both applications make life in the newsroom for any journalist much more manageable by managing multiple searches, having easy-to-use lists and allowing for instant feedback with a alert notification system.

One of the more interesting tools Twitter recommends for searching is Topsy. In a nutshell, Topsy is the “Google of Twitter.” It’s a real time search engine that allows you to search archived tweets, users, links and any other relevant information for a story. I looked up my name on Topsy and was very amazed at what it pulled up. It found my current Twitter account, my old Twitter account, and all the photos and links I have tweeted. I bookmarked Topsy as soon as I understood it and will be using it a lot more in the coming future.

The next area of the #TfN is arguably the most important part of the guide , but seriously lacking in ideas and inventiveness. The engage section of #TfN defines how effective some tweets are and gives examples of tweeters who excel in this area. With interaction between audience and journalist becoming increasingly important, I feel this section really needs to be expanded. While it is great that Katie Couric knows how to interact with her followers, it would be great if she guest wrote some pieces for #TfN concerning how and why she interacts the way she does. The creators of #TfN emphasize that #TfN is a living document and this is important. With time, I know this section will not be just examples, but will be success stories of #TfN users engaging with their followers and audiences.

In the final area of #TfN, the user is given a tool kit containing helpful products to help move along the publishing of Tweets. This page is short and also needs to be expanded, but does give users perfect clarity with the official display guidelines. The #TfN also provides a very well-written summary, “…Twitter content is more than words to read; it can be a catalyst for conversation and engagement.”

This statement is exactly what the #TfN needs to foster and share with journalists around the globe. A suggestion that I would provide is discussing ways to get more third party Twitter applications involved. Yes, this guide was created and is run by Twitter, but if it engaged with its audience and competitors, perhaps a more comprehensive #TfN would emerge.

The #TfN is very informative but has lots of room to grow. My hope is that Twitter sits down with some of its pioneer users and discusses what needs to be added to this guide because it has the potential to be great. This living document needs to keep breathing and I have faith that Twitter will make this better as the months go on.

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