Social media has become such an important part of the fabric of our culture and society. And that means it is really important for journalists to be social media literate… beyond just the basics of knowing how to tweet or post to Facebook! Journalists need to know how to sift through, analyze, understand and interpret what is going on.
A couple of months ago, I published The Social Media Reporter, which aims to help journalists do just that. It’s a free online guide that aims to demystify social media and provide practical, concise tips for navigating through the sea of information.
I first got interested in this field when I helped launch BBC Trending at the end of 2013, and I then had the opportunity to really dive deep as a John S. Knight Journalism fellow at Stanford University in 2015.
The Social Media Reporter is designed with a busy journalist in mind, and is arranged by theme (organize, locate, verify, search and trending) so people can dip in and refer to it as-and-when they need.
Here’s a quick spin through those themes – and five top tips.
1. How to organize your feeds
Social media – and Twitter in particular – can be totally overwhelming. It’s impossible to keep up! But there are some tools that can help.
Tame shows you – at a glance – the most shared links, and most used hashtags within your network, or on any Twitter list. The time frame is adjustable – anything from the last hour, to the past seven days. It’s a paid-for tool, but you can take up a free trial. twXplorer is similar (but free). It’s not as sleek a Tame, but has many of the same functionalities.
2. Locating video, images and sources from a specific location
News organizations are using more eyewitness media. But how best to find it?
Banjo is an incredibly powerful tool for finding social media posts by location. There is a paid-for Enterprise version, and also a free version for journalists, which includes a surprisingly high number of features.
3. Verification: How to spot fakes and scams
I can’t over-state how important this is! Social media is a breeding ground for rumors and fake and manipulated images and video.
Every journalist should know how to do a quick reverse search on an image. This will show if there are previous versions of the picture, and if it has been amended/manipulated. To do a Google Reverse Image search, right-click on an image and select “search google for this image” or drop the image into the Google Images search bar.
To search on TinEye, it’s the same process. Again, selecting the largest version of the image will most likely lead you to the original.
Jeffrey’s EXIF Data viewer reveals various bits of metadata associated with an image, including with what camera it was taken, the time and date, and — sometimes — the location.
All the tools above are free.
4. Search and research: How to do it effectively
I’m a big fan of Buzzsumo, and use it almost like a google search when beginning to research a subject. It’s also great for finding guests/interviewees and experts. It shows you what the most shared stories are on any given search.
Don’t forget about LinkedIn! If you’re a journalist you can get a free 1-year upgrade to a premium account after taking a short web tutorial. The dates are posted on the LinkedIn for Journalists page.
5. What’s trending?
CrowdTangle is a really fantastic paid-for tool, which shows you not only the most shared stories on Facebook – but those that are “overperforming” based on the past history of that account. You can set up alerts to come direct into your inbox.
Facebook Signal is well worth signing up to. It’s a free tool designed by Facebook and is only available to journalists. You need to request access — and this can take a few weeks — but once you’re in, it gives you access to a much richer source of information on stories trending on Facebook, as well as other useful enhanced search facilities.
There are lots more tips and tricks in The Social Media Reporter, which you can find at www.socialmediareporter.org
The guide will be a much more useful resource if others contribute to it too – with case studies, updates and tips. So, please share with your colleagues, around your newsroom and more widely. The guide is on Medium, so you can add a comment there. Or feel free to get in touch directly at [email protected] or @CordeliaHeb.