Best practices for journalists to effectively use Twitter amid crises

Monday, 4 May 2020

Since the emergence and subsequent outbreak of COVID-19, millions of people have Tweeted and Retweeted about it around the globe, many looking for credible, helpful and potentially life-saving information. In fact, the global conversation about COVID-19 and ongoing product improvements are driving up total monetizable DAU (mDAU). In Q1 2020, average monetizable DAU (mDAU) grew 24% year over year to 166 million, which was our highest reported year-over-year growth rate to date. We have added 14 million average mDAUs since Q4 (152 million) and 32 million since Q1 of last year (134 million).

There’s no doubt that we are facing an unprecedented moment in our collective history. This is global, this is open-ended, and this affects every person, every family, and every organisation. 

In times of crisis, people look to journalists and media organisations to keep them posted on the latest facts, updates from authorities and information to stay safe. From reporting on the availability of essential items amid lockdown, to generating awareness about the importance of social distancing, from highlighting the impact of the spread of COVID-19 through including accurate international coverage, to finding and sharing inspiring and positive stories, reporters and editors are going the extra mile, reporting and, even exposing themselves to harm, all to ensure that they keep the public informed. 

Journalism and news organizations have always been core to Twitter, which has a deep and enduring responsibility to protect that work. This can only be successful if people have timely access to the news and information they need. There has never been a more important time to support, enable and empower media in providing information to the readers and communities who need it. This unprecedented issue reminds us all of how deeply we are connected -- and at Twitter, it underlines our company-wide purpose to serve the public conversation. 

To this end, Twitter has contributed to two critical organisations that are working tirelessly to uphold the fundamental values of a free press during this pandemic. Twitter has donated one million dollars to the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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These funds will be used to ensure these organisations can continue their work in the face of new economic strains and to directly support journalists. Read more here

In-market, we are working closely with our news partners through these challenging times so they can leverage various tools and features to optimise for engagement, reaching a wider audience. 

Here are some tips and best practices of news organisations using Twitter effectively to reach out to their readers and share latest information with them. 

  • Showcase your best stories via Twitter Moments: Use Twitter Moments to curate your team’s best tweets and tell the full story. For example, our news partners The New Indian Express updated one Moment regularly with the latest news through March and have been able to keep readers well-informed, getting great engagement and traction. You can also use a Twitter Moment to help audiences break down more complicated FAQ’s, that are top of mind, like our news partners at The Hindu have done with this guide to Hand Sanitiser vs Soap, a question that was top of mind for many. Pro tip! Want a quick reminder on how to make a Moment? Here’s a handy guide on our Twitter Media page, and you can always follow @MomentsIndia for more!
  • Use Twitter Lists: You can create a Twitter List composed of journalists and editors from your newsroom who are covering the big story. This could include all the Health Editors and reporters covering Covid-19 at present, for example, or you could include a list of trusted Health Experts that people can follow. Don’t forget to Tweet the list out! Anyone who subscribes to your list will automatically get those updates. Our news partners The Quint Fit have shared this list of Health Experts.
  • Use Twitter Threads: Let’s face it, sometimes a Tweet just isn’t enough. There’s so much information you want to pack in, and you have several ways of doing so. A Twitter Thread is a simple way of doing this: just hit reply to your own Tweet and starting composing. By using Threads you can expand beyond 280 characters and add more context and updates in real-time. Your Twitter Thread can be 3 Tweets or 13, as many as you need to tell the story! Here’s one example from our news partners CNN-News18 who wanted to showcase tips to optimise for productivity while we are working from home. You can also use a Twitter Thread to make a difference and share stories of Inspiration, as our partners Dainik Jagran are doing, collating stories that can lend some positivity to the entire ecosystem.
  • Help people hear information directly from the source: You can host virtual interviews or live chats with experts for people to ask their questions directly and get their queries addressed real time. Go LIVE on Twitter directly and include your guests… or  you can even host and participate in an old-school Tweet Chat.
  • Don’t feel like you have to restrict yourself to sharing one or two stories a day: People are hungry for information and this is the time to share as many credible, compelling news updates as you have. You can also share infographics, helpful tips, trivia and updates from across the world. Show, don’t tell is the old adage in the news biz, and this is no different. You can also look at sharing tips for those dealing with the situation, like our partners NDTV Food.
  • Talk to your audience to find out what they need to hear about: Get people to weigh in on certain subjects. You can use Twitter Polls or just simply Tweet to ask people for their comments, quotes and opinions on certain stories such as the situation in their locality, topics they want more information on, etc. 
  • Debunk myths: Owing to the uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic, there are many myths circulating around. Your audiences look to you, in news organisations to share the latest accurate and authoritative news with them. It is a good practice to Tweet fact-checks or Myth-busters for your readers.
  • Make sure to mention other people relevant to your Tweet: Back to basics, don’t forget to include @handles of those you’re talking about, so they get tagged and are in the know about a news story concerning them. It shows that the story has credible sources and builds engagement.
  • Use hashtags sparingly to spread awareness: Use hashtags that are relevant to the story you’re sharing. But only one or two please, not more. They can be distracting and aren’t really adding value beyond two, maximum three.
  • Pin Tweets: This is your prime digital real estate. It’s how audiences know what you care about. Be sure to pin your most important or relevant stories, or the ones that are live and in progress on to the top of your timeline, so your followers can easily discover these. You can change your pinned tweet up daily, weekly, monthly, depending on your own news priorities.

Don’t forget you can follow along some of these best practices @TwitterMedia. We will continue to work with our news partners across the board and in multiple languages here in India; we are grateful for their journalistic leadership and commitment. 

To see all of the latest steps Twitter is taking in response to COVID-19, visit

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