Image: Ryan McGuire, Gratisography

N.B. This guide has been fully updated as of April 2017


The Social Media Reporter is a guide to help you leverage the power of social media in your reporting.

If you feel less than comfortable with all this, you are in the right place. My aim is to demystify social media, and put the power into your hands.

For experienced social media journalists, I hope you’ll come across something here that you haven’t tried before, and find it a useful resource for training colleagues.

This is not about how to promote yourself or your news organisation on social media.

Image: Ryan McGuire, Gratisography

This section covers:

  • Twitter lists (public and private) and how to make and find them
  • Using Tweetdeck effectively
  • Facebook Interest Lists and Groups
  • Tools for getting organised (free and paid)
  • IFTTT (If This Then That)

N.B. This symbol ✳️ means the tool is free!

This is the first section for good reason! Taking the time to organise your feeds is the single most important step to using social media effectively in your reporting. Social media is incredibly overwhelming. But there are some very simple things you can do to tame it.

The tips here will work best if you cover…

Image: Robert S. Donovan

This section covers:

How to find images and video from a specific location:

  • Direct from Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites
  • Using free and paid tools
  • The ethics and crediting of eyewitness media

N.B. This symbol ✳️ means the tool is free!

Ethics and crediting

I’m putting this first because it’s important and I don’t want it to be buried as an afterthought…

Eyewitness footage by people shot at the scene of a news event — sometimes referred to by the clunky expression, “User Generated Content” (UGC) — is increasingly becoming part of news coverage.

So it’s fundamentally important for journalists and…

Image: Jamie King, Unsplash

This section covers:

  • Fake accounts
  • Verifying images
  • Verifying video
  • More resources

Update: The US election in November 2016 and the debate around fake news has thrown a huge spotlight on this important area. For more reading and the latest updates, check First Draft News.

One of the most important things to remember when working with social media is that nothing is verified. Rumours spread like wildfire, and images are very often taken out of context (knowingly or unknowingly), or manipulated. Be suspicious!

There are some great guides and resources on verification out there, and wherever possible I link to those…

Image: Ryan McGuire, Gratisography

This section covers:

  • Advanced search on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit to find interviewees, story ideas and for research
  • Tracking people down via their social media accounts

N.B. This symbol ✳️ means the tool is free!

✳️ Facebook Signal

Update: Facebook Signal has closed down, so these links no longer work unfortunately…

Facebook launched a service just for journalists called Signal in September 2015.

You have to request access and give a work email address. It can take a few weeks to process, but after that it’s free to use, and provides more information than via the standard Facebook interface.

It’s perhaps…

Image: Ryan McGuire, Gratisography

This section covers:

  • How to find out what’s trending — on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Google, and Reddit
  • What’s the best hashtag to use?
  • Who shared this story?

N.B. This symbol ✳️ means the tool is free!

The last couple of years have seen an explosion in tools and interest in covering trending stories, from BBC Trending — which I helped to launch in 2013 — to AJ+ and Global Voices (who have used social media as a source for stories for years) and many others.

Being better at “listening” to your audience is undoubtably a good thing. But two…

SocialImage: Ryan McGuire, Gratisography

Here are a few places I’d recommend you go for more on social media and news.

✳️ First Draft News has rapidly emerged as the go-to place for everything to do with verification and ethics. It pulls together articles, guides, case studies and online training courses from many of the leading experts in this field, and is a really excellent resource. You can also follow on Medium.

✳️ The EyeWitness Media Hub is focused on research and guidance to journalists using eyewitness reports from social media.

✳️ The NewsWhip blog is an incredibly useful source of best practice examples of…

** This is preview of what’s to come in The Social Media Reporter — a guide to using social media for newsgathering. It will be up-and-running soon. If you’d like to like to be alerted when it’s ready, please send me an email at with “The Social Media Reporter” in the subject line **

Here’s a list of social media tips and tools that I find useful. Please note, this selection is entirely subjective and is by no means exhaustive! Many of the tools are free. …

Cordelia Hebblethwaite

Commissioning editor for @bbcideas — short films for curious minds. Via @BBCNewsnight, @JSKStanford, @BBCTrending and more. Wrote

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store