Weekly Writing Tips: Sourcing Content from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Photo by Flickr user Charis Tsevis. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Photo by Flickr user Charis Tsevis. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Weekly Writing Tips are a collection of best practices for writing and reporting at Global Voices. September's tips are brought to you by Rezwan, regional editor for South Asia.

To continue our discussion from last week about finding citizen media commentary for GV posts, let’s look at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


There are approximately a billion Twitter users registered in the world, while there are only about 316 million monthly active users. A good source of opinions highlighted in GV posts come from Twitter. We can find them in our timeline, but it’s usually pretty tiring to stare at the constant flow of information. Instead, we can use Twitter lists, search or hashtags to find exactly what we want.

1. Twitter list: You can search for Twitter lists of influencers or good sources from you focused country or region. Search Google for a list and subscribe to some already made by someone (check out mine https://twitter.com/rezwan/lists). Or, of course, you can create your own from the people you follow.

2. Twitter search: Track the hottest trends on Twitter and click on a stream to pull up a feed of the public conversation. Search specific keywords (try different combinations and language) to find specific opinions or news. Use the advanced search feature (https://twitter.com/search-advanced) to fine-tune your results — I think the timeline feature is a very useful one.

3. Hashtags.org: This provides graphs on Twitter #hashtags and hashtag use. Find the most popular and newest hashtags

4. Track is a little-known Twitter feature that lets you track keywords and have them sent directly to your mobile phone as soon as they’re posted.  

5. Services like Topsy.com can tell the number of times a hashtag was used (within a specific time frame). The site also shows the first tweet that used the hashtag.

6. Other services include (some of them are paid):

  • Trendistic: See the top trending keywords in Twitter
  • TweetVolume: Enter your keywords and see how often they appear on Twitter
  • Twilert: Twitter alerts via email
  • Twazzup is a dashboard program that monitors Twitter, Twazzup will let you know whenever your keywords are mentioned in a tweet.
  • Twitterfall is a great way to keep up on conversations about an event, or an online chat, using hashtags. You can also use its geolocation panel to see discussions in a geographic area.

The important thing about using Twitter-based opinions is that it should be relevant and highlight unique opinions rather than just mentioning or retweeting simple headlines.


Many GV authors often ignore commentary that is found on Facebook. Can you ignore the billion users who sign in to Facebook on a given day? We can easily scan through Facebook for relevant content.

1. Facebook rolled out a new search tool this year (http://search.fb.com/) that allows you to look for previously published posts using a keyword or a combination of words and names. The new search function is available on web, as well as the mobile app. The new search allows you to browse the archive of your friends’ posts for keywords instead of phrases.

2. When searching any specific keyword, first it will search any posts from your friends and groups matching the keyword.

3. Then it lists the public posts using the hashtag. The keyword is highlighted in the posts it lists.

4. Facebook also shows the top trends in searches.

The limitations of Facebook search are that your searches are logically restricted to only those people with whom you’re connected to or those within your extended networks (only public content). So if you are following a particular region or interest/campaign, it would be a good idea to join relevant groups or pages before searching.


Instagram now tops 400 million users and 40 billion photos. There is always someone uploading images that you can highlight in GV by embedding it. You can search for people and hashtags using the search bar at the top of Search & Explore. To search Instagram, tap Search then choose whether you're looking for Users or Hashtags. Other services include:

Other Services

Social Mention is a social media search engine that searches for keywords on social media platforms — including blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos and microblogging services — and provides metrics around keywords and “sentiment.”  

BoardReader is a community search engine that crawls forums, blog posts, images and microblogs. It’ll also let you know when a new forum starts specifically to discuss your brand or organization. Another useful forum search is YukuFind.

Google Trends measures the level of interest in specific topics based on searches people conduct over a period of time. One interesting facet is that you can compare multiple sites in the same sector and see the geographic regions where a keyword is most popular.

In the coming week I will talk about authenticating the opinions and sources. Have a nice week ahead.

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