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Twitter Case Study – The Washington Post and the Redskins

Forgive me for this indulgence.

In the midst of depressing talk of economies on the brink and deep recessions, I thought it might be therapeutic to write about the use of Twitter as it relates to one of my favorite escapist pastimes – rooting for the Washington Redskins. By examining the use of Twitter by the Washington Post’s Redskins beat reporters, I also wanted to examine some useful principles on how advocacy organizations can effectively leverage social media.

There is no doubt that the job responsibilities of a beat reporter at the Post have expanded greatly over the last few years. A decade ago, Redskins beat reporters would file a story or two every day during the season. In the last few years those responsibilities have expanded to cover not just writing stories for the dailies, butalso  posting updates on the “Redskins Insider” blog multiple times a day and utilizing Twitter.

The Post’s Redskins desk has done a great job with the blog. It’s one of the first blogs I read at the end of every day. Jason La Canfora leaves aside the journalism school and AP style and writes like a real person on the blog. And he injects some fun into his postings: each Friday Jason awards TCCJ (Tom Cruise Couch Leap) points to different players.

Many organizations make the mistake of setting up a blog and writing with the same tone and style that they would use in a press release or the monthly newsletter. The Redskins Insider blog reminds us that an organization’s blogger write with a personality.

More recently, the Post’s Redskins team started using Twitter to update readers during the week. And during the game they ratchet up the frequency of the updates.

The best thing about the Post’s Twitter updates is that they are frequent and written from the perspective of a real person. The updates are full of insight and heartfelt emotion.

Here is a recent sampling of Redskins Insider tweets:

*Chris Horton has been named the NFL’s defensive rookie of the month. (Chris Johnson of the Titans is the offensive rookie of the month.) about 10 hours ago from web
*(I wish I’d invented tinyurl. Sigh.) about 14 hours ago from web
* Let’s move on to important stuff, like when do you redo Campbell’s contract? http://tinyurl.com/53r9wd about 14 hours ago from web
* I’d bet the ranch that he plays…sadly, i have only ranch dressing. about 16 hours ago from mobile web
* Brian Westbrook was limited in Eagles practice yesterday…sez he’s “feeling better every day.” about 16 hours ago from mobile web

The Post’s Redskins team for doing a commendable job of engaging this new media tool. They have gotten many things right with Twitter.

But here is one recommendation for improvement:

Follow others on Twitter who are Redskins fans and respond to them. Twitter, at its core, is social media. It’s about interacting with others and engaging in conversation. If the Redskins team at the Post reads and then responds to others on Twitter, they will build stronger relationships with their readers and strengthen brand loyalty.

Like every other social media tool, there are cultural rules of engagement on Twitter. Any organization, including advocacy organizations, that wants to engage citizens and supporters must both learn and practice these rules of engagement.

In future posts, we will more comprehensively address how advocacy organizations can engage the conversation on social media networks like Twitter.

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