Weekly Writing Tips: Finding Story Ideas on Social Media

The Weekly Writing Tips are a collection of best practices for writing and reporting at Global Voices. July's tips are brought to you by Brazil editor Taisa Sganzerla.

Dear friends, welcome to the third installment of July's Weekly Writing Tips!

In this installment we'll continue the “How to Find a Story” theme from last week, only focusing on social media (I also drifted away from the topic in the end a little, but I hope you guys forgive me :-) )

We report on social media so, of course, most of our stories come from the Internet. You probably all have your methods and ways to uncover stories from social media. These are some of my own:

Keep your friends close, your enemies closer: You know how people love to say how they delete from their newsfeed everyone who they deem ‘stupid’ or generally have opinions that annoy them? Well, don't do this. A ‘clean’ newsfeed (I'm not on Twitter, so this applies to Facebook) might stir your emotions less, but you'll end up seeing the same opinions over and over again — which, I bet, are probably the same as yours.

Of course, I love seeing what my favorite pages and bloggers are up to, but I also follow all the Brazilian reactionary and right-wing Facebook pages that have a respectable number of followers. I like to know what they're saying and what their grievances are, even if I think they are utterly delusional or downright infuriating.

Sometimes great stories come out from these pages — and as your friends won't follow them, you'll be among the first in your circle to know them (Also, it'll help you sharpen your arguments to defeat them in debates in the comment boxes or at the bar :-P).

Reach out: Instead of just reproducing whatever was publicly shared on social media, why not reach out the people who posted them?

Our author Fernanda Canofre has done this multiple times for stories she found on Facebook and wrote for Global Voices. In my own experience, as well, people are super welcoming once you say the article is for a citizen media website.

Send them a DM on Twitter or a Facebook chat, introduce yourself as a GV contributor and say you'd like to ask a couple of questions. If the person is on Facebook and adding sounds too invasive to you, send them a message, although that's probably 100% at this point going to end up in the ‘spam’ folder (when I'm really craving for the story, I pay the 0.19c Facebook charges to place the message in the person's main inbox and be done with it, but this is totally a personal decision).

Send the Global Voices URL so they can check out our site. If you feel the person is weary of you, send also your GV profile page so they may verify you're a genuine GV author. If you're not sure what to ask, reach out to your regional editor and they might help you in drafting a couple of questions.

Don't let your Internet turn into a personal television! As you probably have already read in this (super insightful) piece, the Web might be turning into one giant network of personal televisions, where we numbly scroll over news articles, profile pictures and cat videos (if you haven't read it yet, do it now).

I think no one is totally sure on how to change this pattern, but one of the ways I see it is this: get off of Facebook for a minute. Go back to the homepage (some people say that the idea of the ‘homepage’ is totally dead), browse the websites you love like in the old times, go back to the blogs you love.

Also, interact as much as you can! Instead of just sharing a link, write a couple of lines on what you think about it. On your posts, encourage people to talk — especially to disagree with you. One of the main grievances I have with the new Web in relation to the early 2000s Web is how disagreeing turned into trolling (Hossein addresses this in his piece also). It's incredible how there's almost no spaces where people with different views are encouraged to interact in a civilized manner.

Well, now I realize this doesn't sound like a writing tip :-P Sorry guys!


Have a great rest of the week, guys!

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.