USC Annenberg Media Resources

How to use Twitter for sports reporting

by Derek Opina

I’m sure you’ve heard of the “unwritten rules” of baseball. There are certain procedures and actions that players don’t do (no bat flipping, don’t take too long to round the bases after a home run, don’t throw a pitch behind a batter, etc). Athletes tend to get angry if these “unwritten rules” are broken.

Using Twitter for sports is a lot like the “unwritten rules” of baseball, except you’ll probably lose credibility with followers instead of creating anger.

Below is a guideline for using Twitter when acting as a sports reporter. These tips will help build your social media brand and increase followers.

The tweets should have a purpose:

  1. To create and distribute original, compelling and trending content. Examples of content:
    1. Stories that are published to web
    2. Complete video highlights of games covered
    3. Partial clips from games covered (amazing plays, buzzer beaters, etc.)
    4. GIFs (when available, not necessarily as a LIVE tweet)
    5. Pictures 
    6. Breaking news
    7. Retweeting
  2. To provide live in-game updates (AKA LIVE Tweets. More on that below).
  3. To provide any significant pregame and postgame news
    1. Pregame example: The heat wave before the Western Michigan vs USC game
    2. Postgame example: Interview quotes, pics of scoreboard, etc.

Twitter DO for game coverage:

  1. Tag/mention athletes that make amazing plays
  2. Tag/mention athletic programs when tweeting content about them
  3. Use hashtags that might be trending during athletic events (#NCAA, #CFB, #NCAAFB, #USCvsStanford, etc)
    1. You can usually search these hashtags ahead of time to see which official hashtag is trending
  4. Provide updates during the games, after quarters, at halftime and final scores
    1. For Football and soccer, updates should also be provided after scoring plays
  5. Tweet news of the game as it happens (injuries, relief pitchers warming up, coach ejections, anything significant and relevant to the story of the game)
  6. Use periods before beginning any tweets with @
    1. Any tweets that start with a handle usually don’t appear in your followers timelines right away unless the . is typed before the @

Twitter DON’T for game coverage:

  1. Don’t Tweet like this:
    1. SAM DARNOLD TO DEONTAY BURNETT OMG!!!! USC LEADS 28-0!!
  2. Don’t post anything personal (Selfies, “my day is going like this” tweets, etc.)
  3. Try to avoid using acronyms when describing athletic programs that are NOT commonly known by their school letters.
    1. Examples:
      1. Use Alabama instead of UA
      2. Use Arizona instead of UA
      3. Use Washington State instead of WSU
      4. Use CAL or California instead of UC Berkeley
      5. Use CSU Fullerton or Cal State Fullerton instead of CSUF
      6. Use UC Santa Barbara instead of UCSB
      7. Use Penn State instead of PSU
      8. Use Florida instead of UF
      9. Use Western Michigan instead of WMU

                     ***Exceptions can be made if you’re trying to save characters on a tweet***

    1. Examples of okay to use:
      1. USC
      2. UCLA
      3. LSU
      4. TCU
      5. BYU
      6. UNLV
  1. Do not delete tweets that contain factual errors (This is a Media Center policy)
    1. Issue a correction instead by replying to or quoting the tweet that contains the error

Remember: Your followers should be getting something from you! That’s why the followed you in the first place.

LIVE tweeting guidelines

Let’s be honest: deep down we’re all sports fans. That’s why we love sports to begin with. But it’s important to remember that a journalistic code should be followed when live tweeting. The tone of your tweets should be neutral and unbiased. It’s okay to tell the story of the game from the USC perspective. But never ever tell the story as a fan.

The goal of LIVE tweeting is to tell the story of the game. You don’t necessarily need to tweet every single play that happens as the game develops. You only need to tweet out enough information that allows your followers to understand the story of the game.

If your follower gets a recap of the game by reading your tweets on their timeline, then you’ve successfully done your job.

When it comes to tweeting scores, this can be sport dependent. Obviously when a touchdown for football, run for baseball or a goal for soccer is scored, then it’s a big deal and you want to tweet that (because a big score is obviously part of the story of the game). For sports like basketball where batches of points can be scored within seconds, tweeting every single basket made is not ideal. You may want to tweet runs during the game instead (USC on a 10-2 run against UCLA, etc). Again, use your judgement to tell the story of the game.

When tweeting final scores, always include rankings if the team is ranked. Never use jersey numbers when describing a player’s actions/performance during a game.

EXAMPLE:

Final Score: No. 6 USC defeats No. 14 Stanford 42-24

OR

FINAL SCORE:

No. 6 @USC defeats No. 14 @Stanford 42-24

Other things to keep in mind:

  1. Proofread all tweets
    1. Reading your tweet out loud is a great way of catching errors
  2. Confirm news before tweeting about it
  3. Cite sources or reports if going off other news outlets

Good examples:

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