Doesn’t she look like the girl who shows us interesting apps and gadgets every Saturday morning? Yes, this is Kate Russell, the technology reporter of BBC Click who has the most incredible job – surfing the web and getting paid for that.
On a serious note, Kate has been a technology reporter since the mid-90s and started tinkering with computers aged 11, when she got addicted to her first game, Elite. She’s been a veterinary nurse, a payroll clerk and even an estate agent. The kick-off of her TV career was when she applied for a presenter at a game show on Nickelodeon and she got the job. On her website she says: “I think I was the only person who applied that wasn’t desperate to be on TV”.
Well, apparently, the camera loves you, Kate! Since then she has worked for the Computer Channel , Channel 4 and BBC.
She also features regularly on CNBC Europe as both a reporter and producer. She has also appeared on GMTV. One of her dreams is to become a published novelist.
Twittering from: @katerussell
Number of Followers: 13,686
Number of Tweets: 5,184
No doubt, she knows how to use Twitter brilliantly. Here is what she shared with us:
When did you set up your Twitter account? Do you remember why you did it?
I joined Twitter in February 2008. I signed up to review it for BBC Click and it was still in its infancy. No-one quite understood where it would go; they just knew it was cool. This is the actual introduction I wrote for the review script:
“Our first site today is a real enigma. I can’t quite decide if it’s an incredibly cool curiosity, or an utter waste of pixels. But it’s got a lot of people in a bit of a Twitter.”
I actually didn’t start using Twitter regularly until February 2010 when I suddenly realised its potential for keeping my viewers up to date with my work, and getting direct feedback from them in short, concise bites. Before Twitter, it was almost impossible to read and respond to every email I got from a viewer. BBC World goes into 330 million homes and is estimated to be watched by around 71 million people a week from all over the world. I’m not saying that’s how many emails I got a month, but it sometimes felt like it! As you can imagine, a long rambling email with a couple of comments or suggestions at the end was a slog to get through hundreds of times every week. Through Twitter, even though I now have over 13,000 followers, I get a manageable volume of correspondence to read & reply to each day.
What is the most positive thing about using Twitter?
For me, that 2-way communication with my audience is incredibly valuable. As a programme maker and writer, I need to be making stuff that people want to watch/read. Now I can ask them directly and get an immediate response from lots of different viewpoints. If I wasn’t in the media I would probably say the most positive thing is the rapid delivery of important information and news stories as they break.
Do you have a Twitter strategy?
A lot of people join Twitter and think it’s some kind of popularity contest. They use the “Follow you, Follow me” strategy to bump up their numbers, but it’s utterly pointless in my opinion – even a monkey can click the follow button repeatedly an it doesn’t make you “good” at social media. I believe that Twitter is the ultimate human content filter, where the people I follow have carefully chosen a small number of accounts to follow, who have each in turn done the same thing, etc. If I, and all the people I follow, have done a good job of selecting the accounts to watch, then the links shared & comments retweeted should be focused and insightful – exactly what I wanted to read. I would never follow someone who is following a large number of people, as I know they are doing little or no filtering of the posts coming into their feed. I also like to think my follow list says a little about who I am and what my interests are. I often browse the following lists of any tweeters whose posts catch my eye.
Aside from that, the only strategy I have is to post lots of interesting stuff and occasionally try and make people smile. It’s not particularly sophisticated, but it works for me.
How should journalists use Twitter? Any tips or tricks that work for you?
I’ve found the rapid delivery of information on breaking news stories around the world extremely useful. You only have to look at the Arab Spring to see the important role information is playing. There is no more room for dirty secrets in the world: if something is happening, somebody, somewhere will be tweeting about it. That gives people power. And information spreads incredibly quickly through Twitter, circling the world in a matter of seconds. It’s a phenomenon in its own right. For example, when I was watching the Murdoch select committee enquiry live on the BBC news website last month, I knew who had thrown the pie about 30 seconds after it all kicked off. I’d been monitoring Twitter at the same time as watching the enquiry, throwing in a few quips and retweeting any interesting comments. Literally seconds after the pie was thrown one of the people I follow tweeted a link to:
@JonnieMarbLes: it is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat
There was a lull of a couple of minutes while the smart ones among us scurried off to verify the claim, and then suddenly the Twittershpere exploded with links to @JonnieMarbLes. I have learned the hard way to check, double check, and then triple check anything you share from your Twitter feed though. Even the best of us get hoaxed from time to time, and it takes a while for a dedicated Twitter following to forgive you if you make too many mistakes.
You favourite Twitter app?
At Monitter you can specify 3 key words that are being tweeted about within a range of a particular location, so you can actually see what’s managing to get out into the Twittersphere from those living through an experience on the ground during a revolution or massive natural disaster.
If you’re interested in UK politics, Yatterbox aggregates the live social media output of all Members of Parliament, drawing from Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, RSS feeds, Hansard and the API of The Guardian. As well as providing insight into what the MPs are saying, it allows users to interact and re-distribute content through their own social networks.
The stupidest way some people use Twitter?
Tweeting anything that you wouldn’t be happy for the whole world to read is pretty stupid. The thing to remember about Twitter is that nothing is private; even if you have your feed set to private with only approved followers seeing it, there is nothing to stop one of them retweeting your comment out into the public domain. And once something is out there, it’s out there forever. Also, never drink & tweet… It rarely ends with any grace.
How do you deal with your personal and professional chats on Twitter?
I don’t have personal chats on Twitter – that’s what the phone is for.
How does Twitter help you in your career?
In the work I do for the BBC – finding & reviewing great websites and apps for Click – Twitter has been an invaluable source of material. The Internet is so big it’s impossible for one person to be totally across it. I am lucky to have a lot of very dedicated and tech-savvy followers, who are more than happy to point me to any cool new websites or tools they have found on their travels. I still have to do a lot of vigorous checks and double checks on to make sure they pass the BBC’s editorial standards – and there is still a lot of rubbish suggested that I have to look at and eliminate anyway. But with a constant stream of links coming in through Twitter day by day, researching content for my segment on Click is a lot easier than in the days when I would have to sit in front of a blank search engine, trying to think of a good key-word to explore.
Tell us what “success on Twitter” means to you?
I find it hard to attribute a single definition to “success” on Twitter. You could say having a lot of followers makes you a success, but if none of them are listening to you or telling you anything interesting, I don’t really see that as a success.
I think if you have a manageable flow of information relevant to your interests coming upstream through your feed, that’s a success. And if you occasionally see a link or comment that opens up a new interest area for you, that’s hitting overdrive.
Downstream, if you can generate interest in the links & comments you post, maintaining a reasonable amount of interaction at the same time as steadily growing your following, then that is a success at whatever scale you’ve achieved – from 10 to 10 million.