I did it. On Friday afternoon, I got my 100th follower on Twitter.
For those who don’t know about Twitter, it’s an online tool for sending a short message to a bunch of people at the same time. Other people on Twitter can “follow” you and read the messages you “tweet.” You can “follow” other people and read their “tweets.”
Those who do know about Twitter – most of the civilized world - are laughing at me. An editor of a metropolitan daily just now explaining this powerful social media tool to her readers? And 100 followers? How pitiful. Her first 17 tweets in the past two weeks? More pitiful.
Easy there. I am a Twitter pioneer, a member since Sept. 19, 2008.
But until two weeks ago, I was only a Twitter lurker, happy to watch the tweets fly by, telling me what was on your collective minds, but never jumping in myself. I joined initially to observe the then-new technology that sports reporter Ryan Divish was using to broadcast high school football scores on Friday nights.
For the next three years, I made excuses for not tweeting. I already wrote a column and spoke at community gatherings about the TNT. I was busy running a newsroom and didn’t need one more thing on my to-do list. Come on, I had a Facebook account. And wasn’t it enough that our main Twitter account, @thenewstribune, had more than 8,000 followers?
Truth is, I was hoping Twitter would die before I had to learn it.
The opposite happened.
Twitter has become a big traffic generator for thenewstribune.com. We get around 30,000 click-throughs a month when people tweet links to our stories. That number has more than tripled in the past year. Twitter is great for breaking news. Readers who follow our reporters get the news they’re interested in first.
Thankfully, most of our reporters are way ahead of their editor. Among our busiest tweeters are Divish (@ryandivish with 21,284 tweets and 5,233 followers), food writer Sue Kidd (@tntdiner with 1,224 tweets and 1,027 followers) and columnist Peter Callaghan (@callaghanpeter with 1,719 tweets and 1,305 followers). Callaghan broke big into the Twitterverse last fall when he live-tweeted from negotiations during the Tacoma teachers strike.
My final shaming came during a McClatchy editors’ conference call when it was suggested all editors in the company should have 1,000 Twitter followers. I had 27. Even Julie Shirley, my friend and editor of the small Bellingham Herald, has 357 followers.
If there’s one thing that motivates me, it’s a competition. You should hear me smack down my own children in our family fantasy football league.
Game on. I’m getting my 1,000.
The company gave editors suggestions for what to tweet: lineups for the next day’s paper; links to our stories or articles about the news business; thoughts about a coverage predicament. Tweet about baseball or hiking if that’s what you love to do. It’s OK to let readers know more about you.
Two weeks ago on my way to an editors conference in Washington, D.C., I plotted a spectacular launch to my Twitter campaign. I would tweet from luncheons headlined by President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
I dusted off my Twitter account, changing from the intentionally obscure @kptnt to a more recognizable @TNTkpeterson. I replaced the anonymous head silhouette with a picture of me. I “unlocked” my account so people could follow me without having to ask permission. (I didn’t know it was locked until Callaghan told me.)
On April 3, about noon, I tweeted eloquently: “Waiting for president to appear,” along with a picture of the flag-draped stage.
I’ve been tweeting since, albeit at a gentle pace. I’ve tweeted links to stories and notes from a speech by Tacoma City Manager T.C. Broadnax at Wednesday’s City Club lunch.
I think, but I’m not sure, that my 100th follower was Mark Briggs, former online editor at the TNT, who now works for KING 5 TV. He was the staff evangelist who taught our reporters to post breaking news online. He’s written textbooks and taught college classes on the subject, speaks at national journalism conventions and is an all-around good guy.
On Friday afternoon, I made Briggs the 81st person I follow. He tweeted back: “@TNTkpeterson welcome to Twitter, my friend. :)”
Hey Briggs, you digital smarty-pants, I’ve been here all along. But please, retweet me and help me get some followers. I gotta beat Shirley.
Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434