Weekly Writing Tips: How to Stay On Top of Social Media Reporting

Social Media Class by Flickr user mkhmarketing. Taken on March 8, 2013 (CC BY 2.0). CREDIT: StartBloggingOnline.com

Social Media Class by Flickr user mkhmarketing. Taken on March 8, 2013 (CC BY 2.0). CREDIT: StartBloggingOnline.com

For the first installment of my writing tips, I want to bring attention to the recently published Social Media Reporter, an excellent, easy to follow and all-encompassing guide on social media news-gathering.

The guide was created by Cordelia Hebblethwaite, a founding team member of BBC Trending. She created the guide while doing a journalism fellowship at Stanford University and interviewed dozens of people and organisations to make this report. Cordelia also interviewed me more than a year ago to learn about best practices we use at GV, so you can say we helped inform the making of this guide!

The Social Media Reporter is divided into six sections — organise, locate, verify, search, trending and resources — all of which have excellent links to handy free tools we can use while reporting at Global Voices. The Social Media Reporter is published on Medium, and each section takes about 11 minutes or less to read. I highly recommend taking 54 minutes out and reading the whole guide cover-to-cover, while bookmarking your favourite tools; you are going to want to test them out next time you are reporting for GV.

To entice you into the guide, I'll be digging deeper into two sections this week: organise and search. 


Social media can be incredibly overwhelming. Taking the time to organise our feeds or create lists is crucial for Global Voices contributors following a certain region, community or issue.

The guide's 10-minute read “organise” section lays out how to set up Twitter and Facebook lists and introduces us to a few cool tools such as Twxplorer, which allows us to ‘search smartly’ on Twitter by choosing a specific search term. The results show the most-used hashtags, terms and links are related to the search term. Think you've covered all the hashtags circulating for a story? Best to check with Twxplorer!

You'll also learn about Politwoops here. A tool that shows recently deleted tweets from politicians, and covers dozens of countries including Argentina, Australia, Chile, Ecuador, India, Iran, Israel, Macedonia, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, Tunisia, Turkey and Venezuela.

And a site called IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That. The site allows you automate the gathering of data from a few social media sites such as Twitter, Reddit and SoundCloud. It also allows you to:

Pretty cool, right?!


The guide's 11-minute read ‘search’ section, has some incredibly handy tools for digging deeper into topics, hashtags, and sources on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit. These tools can help find sources and give story ideas.

  • You can search the bio section of Followerwonk to find experts/interviewees by keyword.
  • The amplification section of Buzzsumo is useful for finding influential people on Twitter by topic, keyword, city or country.
  • SnapBird is a handy free tool for searching within your own tweets and DMs (direct messages). You can also search within another person’s public timeline, and see their favourites.
  • Allmytweets is another way to quickly search your own tweets, which can be very handy.
  • Wikipedia Live Monitor shows, in real time, which articles are being edited.

The section also introduces us to a bunch of tools that enables search for specific people on social media:

  • Pipl let’s you search by username, as well as email, name and phone number.
  • Spokeo is similar and also allows for a search by address.
  • WebMii If you know the person’s name, it will quickly search for all associated social media accounts.

Some other tips:

  • To see if a profile picture has been used elsewhere, check it out on TinEye or do a Google Reverse Image search (see the verification section for how to do this).
  • And here's an example put together by Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) on all the ways you can track someone down online in the US. I found this list pretty detailed and kind of scary, and wondered if there were lists like this in other countries?

And that's a wrap for this installment of the Weekly Writing Tips. Did you find the tools linked here useful? Do you know of other tools that aren't mentioned in this guide? Let me know in the comment box! Next week, I'll be sharing some of the favourite journalism and writing-related films.

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