A lot of journalists use social media to find story ideas and promote their work. Earlier this year, the State of the Media Report 2013 from Vocus showed that Twitter was the most popular social media network for research, and that 47 percent of journalists said they used social media “very frequently” for reporting.

So, it would stand to reason that reporters want to be pitched through social media, too, right? Well, not exactly. The study found that only 5 percent of participants prefer being pitched via social media and 6 percent prefer the phone. The vast majority (89 percent) still want to be pitched via email.

To many PR firms out there, this might seem unfair. Shooting out a tweet about a great story is so fast and easy. But it’s also informal and, really, most journalists are probably relying on social media as a source of content to supplement their current projects, not as a way to hear about new ones. Dozens of pitches are still hitting their inboxes every day, after all.

But, fear not. There’s something else you can try when it comes to interacting with reporters on social media, especially Twitter:

Start a Conversation

Talking to a journalist on Twitter is easy – all you have to do type in the @ symbol and fire off a message. Finding the right journalist and thinking of the right message is the harder part. That’s where PR firms can help clients navigate the Twitter handles out there and pinpoint exactly who would be most interested in a company’s message.

For example, a B2B tech company that offers a social media analytics solution, could look at hashtags like #socialmedia and then jump into conversations with any relevant journalists or thought leaders who are tweeting about the topic. If someone from Mashable posts a new study about Facebook, the corporate or executive handle could offer some relevant insight.

That’s it. Don’t promote a product or service. Don’t try to redirect the conversation to your company. Does the Facebook study state that 49 percent of users actually “like” a Facebook Page because they just genuinely like the brand? Tweet something like, “@ReporterX Great study! Shows the brand loyalty still really matters!” Make sure your input is genuine, helpful and – if possible – thought-provoking.

When you’ve established yourself as a reliable source for valuable opinions and insights, then you can offer related content to the journalist. Here’s where content marketing strategies come into play: if you have your own analysis piece on why users like Facebook Pages and why they don’t, then you can offer that to journalists who share a Facebook study. Some may even tweet the information to their audience, too.

The Simple Art of Not Pitching

A good pitch means knowing a reporter’s beat. PR firms often have established relationships with a number of industry influencers, and Twitter can help strengthen those relationships and establish new ones between clients and key journalists and analysts.

If a corporate or executive handle becomes familiar to a reporter, when a PR pitch is sent (probably through email!), then reporters are more likely to pay attention to it. That’s why the best way to pitch a journalist on Twitter is to not do it. Just start a conversation and go from there.

Read More: 

5 Ways Your Company Can Stop Being Boring on Twitter

Want to learn more? Check out our free eBook!

In The Evolution of PR, Content Marketing and Blogging, we cover:

– The ongoing changes in the world of PR
– The principles of content marketing for tech companies
– Important blogging strategies
– How to use press releases for more than just brand-building