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Which journalists aren’t worth engaging with on Twitter?

Consider the following argument:

Most journalists are on Twitter.

PRs should therefore spend more time “engaging” with journalists on Twitter.

Seems to make logical sense (from a PR standpoint).

Except that just because a journalist has a Twitter account, loads of followers and Tweets for Britain, doesn’t mean that PRs should attempt to interact and engage with every relevant journalist on Twitter.  The reason being that some are far more likely to share your content and actually talk to you than others.

But how do work out which is which?

One way is to use a tool like Twitonomy.

For example, look at the following analysis of Charles Arthur, The Guardian’s Technology Editor.


Over the last two months, he has Tweeted (on average) nearly 55 times per day. From an engagement standpoint, he certainly seems to mention other people a lot – and 74pc of his Tweets are actually @ replies to other people. So as a PR, you might think this is a good way to have a dialogue with him (better still of course, would be to get him to follow you – then you can have private DM conversations).

However, Charles hasn’t shared that many links in the last two months – so the chances that he is going to share that press release of yours is going to be pretty low. He doesn’t ReTweet that much either – so don’t get your hopes up on that front.

Going back to Charles’ propensity to reply to people, Twitonomy also reveals who has had the most conversations with in the last two months:


Not may PR people in that group (Charles himself has already pointed out that he doesn’t think this tells us much – other than that the community of people he has talked to via Twitter over the last two months is pretty broad).

If you were determined to have a go at interacting with Charles, Twitonomy also reveals those times when he most likely to Tweet (and thus presumably be online and on Twitter):


Based on this analysis, 11pm on Friday night.

Clearly, you need to use these metrics with caution. These stats only relate to the last two months. Even if they did range over a wider time frame, how much you can actually infer from this is a moot point. And a cynic might argue that rather than poring over this kind of data, someone trying to get Charles’ attention would be better off investing their time in actually coming up with a decent story angle.

Having said that, I do think tools like Twitonomy – when used appropriately – can be a useful guide to PRs who want to work out the propensity of target journalists to share links, engage in dialogue and/or RT content.

And armed with this knowledge, PRs can allocate engagement resources appropriately. If the end result is better targetting and more effort in giving journalists more relevant and timely information, surely that can’t be a bad thing.

What do you think? Is there something in this? Or is it complete hokum? The comments box awaits your answer.

One reply on “Which journalists aren’t worth engaging with on Twitter?”

Sorry, but as the person who has actually been doing the tweeting, I’d have to say that these feel quite misleading. It’s easily put off by conversations – some of them brief but consisting of a lot of tweets in a flurry – that misrepresent where my *attention* is. Of those 10 you listed as the ones I “most interact with” **in this limited time of the analysis**, I only follow 5, for example (and in total I follow 841 people right now). If you’d done it about 18 months ago you’d have thought LulzSec’s Sabu was my new best mate. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Bad inference which mistakes dialogue for attention.

As to links – I tweet a lot of links, I think – through RTs, plus every story I write. More to the point, what is the average for tech writers/journalists/people on Twitter for link sharing? 10 per 100 tweets? 90 per 100? The comparison is made in a vacuum. Ditto for RTs – what average number of tweets are RTs among tech journos?

And honestly, 11pm on a Friday is absolutely not the best time to get me. (I think there’s an hour-shift error in there, as well. That’s not a peak time for tweeting by my recollection – unless it’s measure auto-tweeted stories.) I recall a similar analysis of my tweets which suggested that Wednesday morning was the best time to get me.

Twitter is human-powered. Far better to go and watch the person you want to engage with and do it from there. Knowing how much they RT etc isn’t as informative as simply looking at their timeline for the past 200 tweets (which is what you’ll get by looking at their Twitter profile.)

Too easy to overthink this stuff – just because the data is there doesn’t mean it’s been analysed correctly, or even that what you can pull out of it has any meaning.

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