Most reporters tell me they post breaking news and links to their stories on a regular basis, but that’s about it. For them, social media is just another way of teasing or promoting their work.
What they’re missing is the value of social media in reporting: finding sources, confirming information, getting pictures and video they can use on air. To do that, you need to know how to manage and search the flood of posts that threaten to drown you every time you log in.
For Twitter, my best advice is to create lists so you can easily find and scan related posts. There’s no need to start from scratch. Simply search for lists already created by others. On google.com, type in “site:twitter.com/*/lists/[keyword],” without the quotes, of couse. Every existing public list based on the keyword you choose will pop up. Try it using a location, like your city, or a topic like education or crime. Once you find a list, click to subscribe. Add more sources as you find them.
Keep track of your lists using a tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, which let you set up separate columns for lists, hashtags, keywords or users. Now, instead of hunting in vain for relevant tweets when you’re tracking a story or a topic, all you have to do is check your list.
Knowing how to search Twitter better can give you a leg up, too. Try advanced search at twitter.com/search-advanced to find tweets by specific users and/or to specific users, or to find tweets within a particular time frame or location. Echosec and Ban.jo will also search for tweets by location. And other sites let you search multiple social media platforms at the same time. Smashfuse is one of my favorites.
Finding things on Facebook
Facebook just ramped up its search function to include all 2 trillion public posts. In addition to simple searches by name or topic, Facebook makes it easy to find people who have specific characteristics. Let’s say you’re working to localize an international story. In the Facebook search bar, type “people who live in [my town] who come from [that country] to find possible sources. Remember, though, that all information in a person’s profile depends on that individual’s entries, so you still have to check to make sure it’s accurate. You can search for people by location, interests, origin, employer and so on.
How can this pay off? Dee Dee Sun, a reporter at KWCH in Wichita, Kansas, has had quite a few successes using social media to cover local stories. One of her suggestions: Use Facebook’s paid messaging option to contact people you don’t know who comment on your stories.
Imagine that? Sun actually found a use for LinkedIn!
Most journalists tell me they’re on it, but they never really use it. Well, you should. The people you want to talk to actually do use LinkedIn to check you out. If your profile is dated or incomplete, you might be jeopardizing your chances of securing an interview.
And one more tip: LinkedIn offers journalists premium membership for free, which allows you to search more efficiently and contact people you aren’t yet connected to. All you have to do is join the LinkedIn for Journalists group and take one of their free webinars, offered once a month. Definitely worth it.
Social media image via Shutterstock