Tweeting, pinning, liking -- we are all using social media. We share our stories, spread the word about breaking news developments and more. But what about using it as a news gathering tool?
I am sure many of you do this every day without even realizing it. Here are some ways I use social media to develop and find new stories.
1. Finding victims. This can work well on Facebook and Twitter. Let’s say you have a story about a company that is scamming people out of money and you want more victims; you could easily post to Facebook or Twitter about the company and have them contact you. (I do this on my personal page first, before going to the station page, just because there is some fear of the competition picking the story up. But, normally when I am posting something this publicly we are close to ready to go to air.)
2. Tracking Stories. I use social media all the time to track stories on topics our team may be interested in. I primarily use Google Alerts, but also create lists on Twitter that are specific to topics we have covered and want to continue to cover. This allows me to see the stories about the topic that are happening world wide. I also use this tool as an opportunity to re-share a link to the stories we worked on. An example is below.
The first link is a new story discussing how Florida lags in solar power. The second link is to the story our station produced on the solar rebate program and lack of funding for the program. It is a great way to share stories again, especially when it is coming up in the news cycle again.
3. Showing connections. This comes into play a lot while trying to work on an investigation. Sometimes you can use sites like LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter to show how closely connected individuals are to one another. LinkedIn is a great source to show where someone went to school and when they graduated. I always verify this independently as well with schools and organizations, but it is a great starting point and this information is self-reported and can be hard from someone to deny when approached about.
4. Finding experts. Just like finding victims, social media can be a great resource for findings experts. I am usually more successful using this technique to get experts than victims. You would be surprised how willing people are not only to be interviewed but to have a conversation about the topic itself. It provides great insight and can really help with the next steps in an investigation while you are gathering information and planning your story.
5. Developing relationships. I do not think we can be reminded of this enough. While it is important to follow topics and know what is going on in our communities, we also have to take the time to get to know the people in our communities. It takes time and it can be difficult but social media can make it a little bit easier.
Take the time to respond to those who tweet to you, leave comments on Facebook posts and on the web. As you meet people in your area, add them to your social networks and continue to interact with them and share stories that you think they may be interested in. Creating the connections will lead to stories and relationships!.
Lynn Walsh in the Investigative Producer at WPTV, NewsChannel 5 in West Palm Beach, Florida. She loves holding the powerful accountable and spends more time than she would like fighting for access to public information. Follow her on Twitter and on Tumblr.