Archive for the ‘Twitter’ Category


Learning from Chicago’s social runoff

Rahm Emanuel, who won re-election as Chicago mayor after the first runoff in city history. (Photo: danxoneil/Flickr under CC)

Rahm Emanuel, who won re-election as Chicago mayor after the first runoff in city history. (Photo: danxoneil/Flickr under CC)

On April 7, Rahm Emanuel was re-elected as the Mayor of Chicago in the first runoff for the office in the history of the city.

Emanuel, known to many as a Congressman and the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, defeated Cook County commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, 56 percent to 44 percent. The runoff came after an election earlier in February where no candidate had reached a majority of votes.

As the runoff campaign took place, Twitter had become a hub for reporting on the campaign, and for Lauren Chooljian, the City Hall reporter for NPR station WBEZ, she wanted it to become a core tool in her telling the story of the campaign.

“Because there was so much interest in the runoff (we hadn’t been there before), I wanted to be as open and transparent as possible,” Chooljian said in a telephone interview, noting she wanted to do snapshots of the campaign, with views also from voters. “As the race was ebbing and flowing (days that some thought Garcia performed better or Emanuel performed better), I did snapshots and longer pieces. I was tweeting much more often too.”

With the large profile this had gotten not just in the city, but also nationally on a political scale, Twitter had become a new way to engage not only those interested, but also attract new audiences. Chooljian had been getting followers from RTs from WBEZ’s Twitter account as well as from other followers.

However, Chooljian says, the traditional on the ground reporting still played a central role.

“Face time still means the most to the Mayor and Garcia,” Chooljian said. “All the tweets in the world can’t do what showing up and doing reporting can do. It can move the stories out further and get people involved.  I have no idea how many people hear my stories, but some of my tweets can go all over the place. Twitter is a way to reach a different segment of our audience.”

Chooljian looked at the human aspect as well of the story, trying to build the longer story of the campaign and the affect on the people of the city, and with Twitter, Chooljian said it made a difference as far as audiences go. She will continue to share her stories as she did with the campaign, and will cover City Hall the same way – trying to find that human interest, as well as information that is necessary to know.

“When it’s a big talking point, I’ll tweet about it,” Chooljian said. “It gets the info out and engages new audiences. That is when Twitter becomes a new tool for us.”

Yet, the bottom line for all journalists, Chooljian says, is trust in your reporting from audiences, whether or not it is on social media.

“If they trust your reporting, they will trust your reporting however you give it to them.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, blogs on social media’s role in journalism for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

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Verify, verify, verify, especially on social media

The Journalism School at New York's Columbia University issued a report April 5 regarding inaccuracies in a Rolling Stone story. (Photo - mathewingram/Flickr under CC)

The Journalism School at New York’s Columbia University issued a report April 5 regarding inaccuracies in a Rolling Stone story. (Photo – mathewingram/Flickr under CC)

One of the biggest talking points in the journalism world at this writing is the just released report from the Columbia Journalism School on the story in Rolling Stone magazine regarding rape at the University of Virginia.

The report, which notes failures that could have been avoided, also has implications for those working in social media and digital journalism.

Indeed, while social media has changed not only how news is consumed, but also how it can be reported, the big point still remains, to verify, verify, verify.

My SPJ colleague, Andrew Seaman, the chairman of the Ethics Committee, reached by email, says verification is crucial irrespective of platform.

“It’s incredibly important to recognize that verification and attribution is as important as it is for journalists reporting for print and broadcast media,” Seaman said. “The Society’s Code of Ethics is written with the understanding that all journalism – no matter where it occurs – is journalism. In all cases, speed nor format excuses inaccuracy. Currently, journalists are fortunate to have social media and other easily available sources to corroborate or verify stories. The trick is for journalists to use these avenues as tool – not excuses.”

Indeed, as Carole McNall, an SPJ Digital member and Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at St. Bonaventure University in New York state, in a note on the social networking site Twitter, indicates, Rolling Stone should do more to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

“[Rolling Stone]’s apparent belief that they need to change nothing guarantees it’ll happen again,” McNall said.

For journalists, social media has allowed a new experience in how we consume and report the news, and this report should be a reminder of the basic principles of getting the facts and putting an ethical story together, whether you’re with a magazine, a broadcaster, an online publication or at a newspaper. When reporting on social media, ensure everything is accurate. Take time to verify sources and material. If you’re quoting a report from social, especially Twitter, verify it before running with it.

Social media can be essential, but used together with other reporting tools can help make a story great. Running with the facts just because they are posted on there doesn’t mean it is automatically true, so take time to verify everything before your deadline. Not only will verification of facts make you be a better journalist for it, it will help your organization grow in trust, especially in the digital world.

Remember, it is better to be right and be correct, than being first than being incorrect, and a great story has verified fact. Verify, verify, verify.

For the record, the Society of Professional Journalists issued a statement independent of this blog post, which you can read here, and you can read wider insight from Seaman on the report, posted on the SPJ Ethics blog here.

If you’re a digital journalist, I’d love to know what you think of this report and the affect on social media and other digital tools in journalism. Feel free to drop me an email or send me a tweet. I look forward to reading your feedback.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, blogs on social media’s role in journalism for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s unless otherwise indicated, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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Twitter confirms acquisition of Periscope

Twitter officially confirmed today its acquisition of the live streaming app Periscope, which had closed in January for $100 million. Twitter’s Vice President for product, Kevin Weil, made the announcement via the social networking site.

As mentioned in Wednesday’s blog post, Twitter made the acquisition as Periscope continues testing in beta mode. It is unclear when it would be released to the public, but it could have implications on news organizations and their interaction with audiences on social media, as audience feedback is a strong component of the app, according to this report from the technology news web site TechCrunch. Comments can be posted on a stream, which would be seen by viewers of the stream and the broadcaster itself, the report adds.

The TechCrunch report adds that Periscope will be launched as a separate app from Twitter, with the ability to watch live and previously broadcast streams.

Alex Veeneman is a Chicago based SPJ member who is chairman of SPJ Digital and the community coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman serves as Deputy Editor, Media Editor and contributing writer to Kettle Magazine, an online publication based in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

This post was amended at 5:26 pm Central time to correct the date of the mentioned blog post.

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Is live streaming in Twitter’s future?

Twitter acquired the live video startup Periscope this week, according to reports. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Twitter has acquired the live video start up Periscope, which could affect Twitter’s video presence and usage by journalists. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

News has emerged this week that Twitter has bought a start up that could expand how journalists use video on social media.

Periscope, a live streaming start up, was bought by the social network for $100 million. The deal closed last month, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, but news of the deal emerged this week. Periscope is currently in beta mode and has not been released to the public.

The news of the deal comes over a week after Twitter unveiled a feature where video embedded on the platform can be embedded on a web site.

While the details are unclear as to the timing of Periscope’s release, this could be a potential new tool that could affect how journalists and news organizations use video, whether covering an event from the field or engaging audiences directly from the newsroom. This could also see an ability for Twitter to further engage potential users and could lead to an increase in user growth, a concern that investors have expressed to CEO Dick Costolo and management.

More developments are likely forthcoming, so keep your eyes peeled as Twitter’s latest acquisition may be one to watch as newsrooms look to make the best available resources of their social media strategy.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is chairman and blogger at large of SPJ Digital, and community coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also serves as Deputy Editor, Media Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

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Twitter’s investor concerns are journalists’ concerns

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has said user growth is a priority as the social network tries to reassure investors. (Photo: Flickr user Joi under CC)

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has said user growth is a priority as the social network tries to reassure concerned investors. (Photo: Flickr user Joi under CC)

As mentioned in Sunday’s blog post, Twitter reported its fourth quarter earnings last week. The social network had 288 million monthly active users according to its earnings release, with 80 percent of the active users using mobile apps.

One of the primary issues that investors raised with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and his managerial colleagues was that of user growth. Prior to the release of the earnings information, it was announced Twitter would enter a partnership with Google, to allow tweets to appear real time in searches.

Indeed, as the New York Times reported last week, Twitter executives are keen to emphasize that the reach of the social network extends beyond the usage of the network itself, be it on desktop or mobile, noting the appearance of embedded tweets, something frequently used on a number of news sites.

There are similarities with this strategy with the Google deal, however it is unclear when the Google-Twitter partnership would begin. Costolo, as reported by the Times, said it may not occur for at least a few months.

But as the concerns continue surrounding user growth, what does this say for Twitter’s long standing relationship with journalists and newsrooms? Could social strategies be thrown into question? Or, as Twitter executives attempt to prove the reach of the social network beyond its own services, could news organizations perhaps be part of the solution?

Twitter provides a distinct advantage for news organizations because it works in the nature of what is happening at the moment. It allows for an expansion of the relationship between audiences and news organizations. While it is unclear as to how the social network’s strategy will play with users, Twitter will need to be cautious on how they approach such a strategy in getting users.

Some features may work, others may not. Some may draw users in, others may run and never come back. That could include newsrooms, as they would reconsider what their best plans would be when it comes to social. The simpler the platform, the better the ability for quality interaction, whether it comes to UGC for a story or the ability to engage with the audience, no matter the beat.

Dick Costolo has a lot to consider as the weeks and months go ahead, and the decisions he makes on Twitter’s future is riding on not just whether he can restore the trust of investors, but users, and ultimately, journalists.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is chairman and blogger at large of SPJ Digital, and community coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also serves as Deputy Editor, Media Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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How can Twitter video help journalism?

Twitter unveiled its new video feature allowing 30 second videos to be uploaded. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Twitter unveiled its new video feature allowing 30 second videos to be uploaded. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Twitter unveiled January 27 two new features – the ability to send direct messages privately to groups, and the ability to upload 30 second video clips directly through the social networking site.

The features were unveiled amid uncertainty with the social network’s investors that user growth would be possible. In an interview quoted from Bloomberg, Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo said user growth remained a priority, as the social network reported its fourth quarter earnings last Friday.

Twitter had also announced that real time tweets would be appearing in Google searches, in a deal with the search engine. It is unclear when that feature would be made available to the public.

Yet, with the introduction of Twitter’s 30 second video feature, potential is introduced for journalists and newsrooms. Twitter’s video feature goes up against Vine’s 6 second videos and Facebook owned Instagram’s 15 second videos. The video feature is reported to be made available to users within the coming days.

In a telephone interview, Katie Hawkins-Gaar, Digital Innovation Faculty at the Poynter Institute, says this gives Twitter an advantage.

“Video is huge right now, both in social and digital news,” Hawkins-Gaar said. “Twitter recognizes that. The 30 second limit sets them apart.”

Hawkins-Gaar sees benefits for reporters working from the field for video to be uploaded to Twitter, but also sees benefits for the overall audience-newsroom relationship.

“Lots of journalists and newsrooms that use Twitter to look for breaking news and user generated content,” Hawkins-Gaar said. “It’s great for that. Those newsrooms are particularly excited about that content. Also those who use it use it for two way conversations with audience. I would like to see more people do that. I hope video enhances that.”

Hawkins-Gaar says that from a social standpoint, this could bring benefit to Twitter and alleviate concerns as it tries to grow.

“There is potential for it to save Twitter,” Hawkins-Gaar said. “It’s good for breaking news and things in the moment. The video feature seems to support that, especially in breaking news. People are looking for information.”

However, this feature also provides a risk, particularly for newsrooms, something that needs to be considered when looking at overall social strategy.

“If you’re a newsroom and want to focus on Twitter video, it’s time to talk about everything on social and look at where you should put your focus,” Hawkins-Gaar said.

Overall, Hawkins-Gaar appreciated the simplicity of the feature.

“One of the things that sets Twitter apart is how simple it is,” Hawkins-Gaar said. “I was happy to see how simple the video feature was. I hope they keep it that way. Focuses on short bursts of info and what’s happening in the moment. I hope it doesn’t change Twitter’s focus too much.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is chairman of SPJ Digital and the community coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman serves as Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

This post was amended at 5:51 pm Central Time to reflect a correction in the last paragraph.

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Twitter tips for Black Friday reporting

Black Friday sale logoFew holiday traditions embolden us and irritate us at once like Black Friday.

Once a hallmark of dread in this country — in the 1960s, it referred to the day President John F. Kennedy was shot — Black Friday turned a profitable shade of green around 2005 when brick-and-mortar stores unilaterally realized its potential as a deal-making gimmick to stem losses from online-only Christmas retailers.

(That was back when the two were still rather distinct. Now, online retailers have their own arbitrary holiday observance, Cyber Monday.)

It’s arguable whether Black Friday has turned from gimmick to myth. Even though 141 million Americans elbowed and shoved each other on the way toward spending an estimated $57 billion on that day in 2013, a study by The Wall Street Journal found that over the previous six Black Fridays, shoppers actually found better deals on other days before Christmas.

Nevertheless, the madness in the aisles returns this week followed by an army of journalists employing social media — Twitter and Instagram in particular — to chronicle the ersatz tradition.

For shoppers brave enough wade through the crowds, perhaps the best advice is to wear pads and a helmet. But for journalists bobbing in Black Friday’s wake, these tweeting tips are paramount:

Always include hashtags, but not too many — Attaching a “#” to the front of a word or conjoined phrase turns it into metadata that search engines sift for and then regurgitate as trend topics. Using them enables Twitter users to find relevant conversations and terms quickly, whether that term is a store name, a popular gift, or a sales event. But limit the number of hashtags to three per tweet; it’s good Twitter protocol.

Be wary of “wow” promotions — Retailers recast themselves as newsmakers when they have big in-store promotions and make liberal use of “first” and “biggest” and “best” and similar unqualified terms to push their products. Before heading to the stores, research retailers’ Twitter accounts — distinguished with an “@” in front of their names instead of a hashtag — as well as brand accounts and compare feeds. Also, it helps to research a store’s or brand’s social media history to see whether supposed Black Friday discounts are better than or comparable to deals at other times of the year.

Track user engagement — Those hashtags come in handy when watching shopper and retailer behavior, but journalists have to pay attention to others’ feeds and not tweet blindly. Monitoring feeds enables reporters to see what people around them are doing and reduces the mistake of tweeting or retweeting contradictory or incorrect information.

Keep an eye on time stamps — And speaking of mistakes, Twitter’s habit of bumping popular tweets to the top of everyone’s feeds also creates confusion about when and where events actually happen. Consequently, in the rush to report, journalists may mistake old feeds for current ones. Take a second to look carefully at the time and date in gray to the right of the tweeter’s account name. Sure, it’s hard for old eyes to see, but a squint beats a gaffe every time.

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Twitter just became a better tool for journalists

Twitter logo and magnifying glassDo you remember your initial tweet?

How about the 20 or 40 tweets that followed?

The first question may be easy to answer. The second, not so much.

But Twitter just announced a way to change that. The 284-million member microblogging platform now has full indexing as well as a search service that can sift for any public tweet ever posted.

So now you can easily dig up the first-ever tweets by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey in 2006, the tweets from the hundreds of people who launched a social media maelstrom this summer in Ferguson, Mo., and about half a trillion other tweets from around the globe.

Before this, only portions of Twitter’s massive archive were available, and those only since 2012.

“Our search engine excelled at surfacing breaking news and events in real time, and our search index infrastructure reflected this strong emphasis on recency,” said Yi Zhuang, search engineer at Twitter, in a blog post Tuesday. “But our long-standing goal has been to let people search through every tweet ever published.”

This opens a door for journalists to find and understand more of the dialog generated online — dialog now considered crucial to our understanding of events and our place in them.

“This new infrastructure … (provides) comprehensive results for entire TV and sports seasons, conferences, industry discussions, places, businesses and long-lived hashtag conversations across topics such as #JapanEarthquake, #Election2012, #ScotlandDecides, #HongKong, #Ferguson, and many more,” Yi wrote.

He noted that the new search is rolling out over several days and is limited to scouring keywords, though other search elements will be added in time. Only viable tweets marked as public are searchable. Deleted tweets won’t appear, but assorted third-party tools are available to uncover those.

For now, search results appear in the “All” tab of the Twitter Web client, as well as the iOS and Android mobile apps. The interface will change as the index evolves, Yi said.

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Deleting your tweeting is cheating

Delete Tweets iconRemember correction fluid? It had names such as Liquid Paper and Wite-Out.

How about correction tape?

Or, how about those pencil- or wheel-shaped typewriter erasers with a plastic brush at one end? The brush was intended to whisk away bits of worn eraser, which usually landed inside the typewriter anyway.

In the days before digital, these were the tools of reputation management. They were cumbersome, messy, and in the case of correction fluid, toxic; the fumes were as potent as gasoline — and anyone prone to typing errors inhaled a lot of fumes.

They also were imperfect at covering imperfections. Shrewd hiring managers held résumés and cover letters up to the light to find the telltale blotches and smudges left by correction fluid. Minus those, an applicant could land the job on perfect typing alone.

Today, we depend on the Delete or Backspace keys to correct mistakes and believe nobody is wise to our errors when they vanish off the screen before our eyes. In truth, the ghosts of our gaffes cling to the Web and leave telltale traces, much like correction fluid.

Nowhere is this more obvious than social media, especially Twitter, where bits of conversations spin off and tumble around inside the platform like socks in a Laundromat dryer. One phrase or image may be plucked out of context and hurled perhaps too far to see where it came from but not far enough to forget. And if that phrase or image is tasteless or inaccurate — well, imagine what happens when one red sock gets mixed in with a load of white laundry.

The solution, many journalists believe, is to delete the offending or inaccurate tweet, also known as scrubbing, but as recent examples suggest that only makes the problem worse.

Bloomberg Politics got caught up in a vicious spin cycle last month when it tweeted about an interview with White House chef Sam Kass about the Obamas’ family dining and paired a portrait of the president with what appears to be a stock image of chicken wings, thus stirring claims of racial stereotyping. The tweet came down without apology but not before thousands saw it and hundreds retweeted it.

The same week, CNN was hit by a tweetstorm after a staffer posted a photo of the network’s morning anchor team apparently making fun of the Ebola scare. The photo was even retweeted by a member of the anchor team before a CNN executive demanded it come down.

The following week, a national correspondent for CBS News suffered embarrassment over her reporting about U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s criticism of federal reaction to Ebola. Amid the dialog, she asserted that Paul lacked the medical wisdom to be objective on the matter. Paul has held a medical license in his home state of Kentucky since 1993, a fact that appears even on Wikipedia. Yet she pulled down the tweet instead of correcting the record.

In each case, the deletion had an impact opposite of what was intended. And not just these three; examples abound of media, celebrities, and politicians smearing their messes over a wider area merely by deleting an errant or inappropriate tweet.

The better strategy? Leave the tweet alone and post a follow-up containing a correction or an apology if necessary. Here’s why:

It minimizes confusion — Retweets, no matter their number, trace back to their origins, and having a string of retweets linked to a blank space in the Twitter time stream can confuse readers who are following the story or merely trying to corroborate information posted by other journalists and readers.

It maximizes credibility — Wherever a gap exists in the Twitter time stream, other Twitter users fill it with conjecture and assumption. Admitting a mistake or issuing an apology not only prevents speculation from seeping into the conversation, it also demonstrates responsibility on the part of the Twitter user and responsible users are considered credible sources.

You can’t change the past — Once a tweet goes live, it never really dies. The Library of Congress signed a deal with Twitter in 2010 to sweep up all Tweets for posterity and now keeps them in a sprawling searchable database.

Typewriters compelled users to think twice before hitting the keys to avoid cumbersome corrections. Treating Twitter with the same respect yields the same result.

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Can Facebook be a successful breaking news platform?

Recent weeks have seen a debate as to whether Facebook can catch up with Twitter and breaking news through its algorithms. (Vicipaedianus x / Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Recent weeks have seen a debate as to whether Facebook can catch up with Twitter and breaking news through its algorithms. (Vicipaedianus x / Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Within the last few weeks, there has been much debate on social media’s effect as a platform of journalism. The news coming out of Ferguson, Missouri in particular with the protests in light of the death of Michael Brown, has seen much reflection on what Facebook and Twitter can become for journalists.

What has come to focus is on the matter of the algorithm, how it should be written, and if it should be redone, as much of the news on Ferguson came on Twitter rather than Facebook, where much of the focus this past month was on the ice bucket challenge for the ALS Foundation. As Mathew Ingram noted on GigaOM, the tone on Facebook is set by the powerful ranking algorithms.

Indeed, because of this, some are suggesting that Twitter has become the go-to source to keep up with real time trends, news and conversations, including John Naughton of The Open University in the UK, writing in the British Sunday newspaper The Observer, noting statistics that saw higher Facebook referrals for articles related to the ice bucket challenge rather than the events in Ferguson.

Naughton then wrote this conclusion.

“What you see on Twitter is determined by who you follow,” Naughton said. “In contrast, what you see in your Facebook newsfeed is “curated” by the company’s algorithms, which try to guess what will interest you (and induce you to buy something, perhaps). Having a frank discussion about the racism that disfigures America might not fit that bill. Which is why Facebook is for ice-bucket memes and Twitter is for what’s actually going on.”

In a telephone interview with this blog, Gina Cole of the Seattle Times said Ferguson conveyed a tone for Twitter and the reaction afterward, including coverage.

It’s interesting to see how this was more nationally covered on Twitter and how many were on the ground because of Twitter,” Cole said. “You can turn Ferguson into #Ferguson and everybody knows where to go to get information.”

Cole added that at the time it was an excellent source for breaking news and discussion on the subject, compared to Facebook. Cole said the algorithms caused a difference in how the story was seen on both platforms. Cole notes the follow function on Facebook, which allows users to follow users’ posts that are public, including journalists, however was not sure how much of a role it had.

It’s odd to watch these two platforms try to become more like each other, when really as a user I think of them differently and use them differently,” Cole said, adding that you may not want to see multiple postings by one person. “If something is happening, you want a live stream of event. Twitter’s platform is more suited to that.”

But can Facebook compete with Twitter when it comes to a breaking news platform? Cole says its possible, but significant changes would need to be made.

Algorithms would have to change, posting display would have to change,” Cole said. “Facebook needs to find a way to be differently useful than Twitter. Find a niche. Find a way I can use Facebook that Twitter doesn’t offer.”

Alex Veeneman is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists based in Chicago. Veeneman also serves as Special Projects Editor and writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can tweet him @alex_veeneman.

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