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The Twitter Revolution

Posted on Friday, August 21, 2009 at 4:56 PM

How social networking can help your publication.

By Meredith L. Dias

Established in 2006, Twitter has become something of a Mecca for publications and the professionals who run them. Thanks to its micro-blogging format (status updates in 140 characters or fewer), editors can post links to new content in just a few seconds. With just a click, Twitter users can "follow" a magazine page and see status updates on their Twitter newsfeeds. Editors can engage their followers with links, contests, special offers, and direct messages. If other users like the content, they can "retweet" it (i.e., repost it on their own Twitter feeds and link back to the source), thus widening the publication's Twitter visibility.

This sort of interpersonal connection with readers can help boost subscriptions and retain existing subscribers. Moreover, Twitter can help foster new business partnerships. Kim Howard, editor-in-chief of ACC Docket, shares her success story: "I connected, through a member, with an ediscovery group who loved our ediscovery issue. He asked for permission (which we granted) to summarize one particular article and we allowed him to post a 'look inside' version. He offered 50 free Dockets (which he purchased) to his blog followers who responded first. He said he never received that kind of overwhelming response before."

Moreover, Twitter can help editors to connect with new freelancers and writers, many of whom use Twitter to promote their services. Howard says, "I put a call out on Twitter for anyone interested in writing on a certain topic for which I have had no takers. I immediately got a response from a lawyer and he is working on something with an in-house attorney." However, she cautions against relying too heavily upon the social networking service: "Twitter is certainly not the end-all solution to marketing your magazine or association. It's simply one more communication tool."

There are some behaviors to avoid when navigating the Twitter universe. Tweeting too often can alienate followers, who are often receiving tweets from dozens or even hundreds of pages. While it is certainly permissible to tweet multiple times per day, it is important to consider whether or not the content posted is useful. Often, Twitter users will ignore or even block users who are posting too frequently, as the multiple updates push other desired tweets off the user's main page more quickly. Posting in excess can jeopardize this important opportunity to create real dialogue between publication and reader. Therefore, in this case, less can definitely be more.

Though Twitter is certainly not a cure-all for what ails the magazine industry, it can certainly provide a boost by introducing an interpersonal element to the publication. Many Twitter users enjoy the opportunity to converse with favorite celebrities and politicians who might be otherwise inaccessible to them; similarly, readers are embracing their chance to forge a direct connection with their favorite publications.

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Meredith Dias is the research editor of Editors Only.

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