People regularly ask us, generally in a whiny voice, the conditions under which journalists return a follow on Twitter. Milo Yiannopoulos gives it to you straight.
(a) You’re a friend.
People I know in real life matter more. Sorry, no offence, but it’s true. So if you want to get yourself noticed by a journalist, go throw yourself in front of her at a conference. (Not in a stalkery way: these conference tips are your friend.) It’s simply a fact that if we know each other in real life I’m more likely to want to find out more about you and what you’re up to online and at work.
Who I follow: ex-boyfriends, former colleagues, the guy I met in the bar last night whose start-up sounded vaguely interesting
(b) You’re funny.
Every great journalist in history has been a troubled soul – and boy do we like to think of ourselves as tortured artists. To alleviate the hell of our hassled and besieged existence, we like following funny people. That doesn’t mean tweeters who post videos and pictures laced with internet memes: it means genuinely funny, witty, clever people that remind us the general public isn’t a total lost cause.
(c) You’re famous.
We’re looking for stories, and celebrities tick off one of the Four Golden Rules of Attention-Seeking: novelty, controversy, celebrity and sex. If a celebrity says something dumb, I want to know about it first. Also, journalists are generally suckers for television and movie people, because we all secretly wish we had a chat show or were a judge on American Idol. Maybe not so secretly, in my case.
Who I follow: Kim Kardashian
(d) You’re professionally useful.
If you’re an analyst, a (good) blogger, you post interesting stuff or you can get me access to people I want to write about, I’m far more likely to engage. Journalists are thorough and our time is limited, so we do look through timelines before hitting follow. Don’t be too noisy (that’s our job); do post useful stuff. Be interesting without being needy. Simples. Also, TV producers: we just love those panel show invitations.
(e) You’re clever or accomplished.
If you’re not famous but you run a company turning over millions, chances are we’ll be interested – mainly because we want to be the ones to make you famous. Likewise, if you’re a celebrated academic who can challenge my views about things or give me something hearty to think about, I’m more likely to hang on your utterances. Show, don’t tell.
Who I follow: Evgeny Morozov
(f) You’re good-looking.
Well, I’m only human.
(g) You’re another journalist.
There’s one favourite subject all journalists have in common: themselves and each other. I’m not suggesting you lie in your Twitter bio. But maybe order your credentials accordingly. Being an outspoken (or simply obnoxious) columnist is a quick route to success here. I speak from experience.
(h) I’m after you.
In days gone by, it was the phone call you never wanted to receive: “Hi there, it’s Gordon Rayner here from the Telegraph.” These days you’re better off watching out for the most sinister tweet of all: “Do you mind briefly following so I can DM you?”
A word of advice: if a journalist ever sends you that message, or a variation on it, reach for the Pampers before it’s too late.