Social Media

Is Twitter the Way to Reach Younger Readers?

There should be no question that Twitter has arrived as a legitimate medium for mass communication, particularly with regard to the rapid dissemination of news content by professional and citizen journalists alike. Twitter may also be the best way to pull younger readers to your news coverage, based on recent research around the growth of the world’s favorite micro-blogging platform. Twitter is now the fastest growing social media channel among younger Internet users, most mobile users who are already comfortable sharing information through social networking sites, according to recent research by Pew Internet & American Life Project in its report on Twitter and other social media sites.

Younger users are turning to Twitter as their top choice for status updates, which some belief represent strong opportunities for news organizations that can figure out innovative ways to tap into these trends. In the Pew report, 19 percent of Internet users report using Twitter or a similar service, up from 11 percent in December 2008.

While Twitter is the most talked-about social media channel for younger users, Facebook and LinkedIn are also in the mix. Combined, these three channels represent significant contact points for reaching younger consumers.

Why Twitter for News Organizations?

Why is Twitter a good option for news organizations? For starters, it’s almost instantaneous to release information through Twitter. There is no need to format Web pages or email newsletters necessarily (though you may want to drive traffic from Twitter to such destinations). Few alternatives match Twitter’s speed advantages today (well, when it’s working that is).

Twitter also enables organizations to reach users wherever they are, due to its inherent mobile and Web-based structure. Twitter is available to users anytime, anywhere (provided they have mobile or wired Internet access). You could say the same about all Web-based news, but the user experience of Twitter on mobile devices is superior to general Web browsing.

Finally, the ease of which users can share information – to rapidly pass the information along to other consumers – is truly unmatched compared to all other media. It’s this third point that is most compelling for media organizations, as 81 percent use services like Twitter to share information with friends.

When you reach a Twitter user with information, he/she is more likely to pass it along as part of their normal “staying in touch” activity. The days of calculating readership based on a single reader, and complicated formulas on “pass along” (how many people touched the magazine or newspaper) is gone.

In the Twitter age, we’re quickly headed towards an era where personal influence and reputation will be measured and rewarded. Organizations are starting to evaluate individuals beyond just another follower. Who has the most influence? Twitter is perfect for this, as more and more tools are cropping up to provide us with more insight into who has the most influence within our target audiences.

Imagine being able to report exclusive stories to a handful of the most influential readers of your content? How effective would that approach be to seeding interest for the story or what impact would that have on helping your content to “go viral”?

Moving Ahead

If you’re trying to reach younger audiences, newspapers and locked-down websites aren’t going to work. Twitter might not be the answer for engaging super-connected users with limited attention spans today, but can you think of a better one? If you tweet your news, younger audiences will follow. News organizations that have already embraced Twitter know this, and most are getting on board. It will be more exciting to see how news organizations can leverage Twitter to innovate new ways to bring us content. One area ripe for innovation in local news coverage. As more and more newspapers are going under in smaller markets, there is an incredible opportunity for entrepreneurs to step up to the plate and to leverage platforms like Twitter to create new types of news sites for local coverage. But that’s a topic for another post.

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