Cordelia Hebblethwaite
The Social Media Reporter
3 min readJul 11, 2016


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.

This is about how to use social media for newsgathering.

It covers:

  • How to organise your feeds
  • Locating video, images and sources from a specific location, and the ethics of using eyewitness material
  • Verification. How to spot fakes and scams
  • How to use social media to track people down and for research
  • How to find out what’s trending and dig to the bottom of trends
  • More resources

The easier-to-remember url is (that redirects here).

Throughout I’ve included tools that are both free and paid-for. Any tips or tools that are free are marked ✳️

Many of the subscription tools offer a free trial, so do test them out to see if they work for you.


I was part of the small team that launched BBC Trending in 2013. It was one of the first attempts by a major news organisation to identify, analyse and explain discussions and trends happening on social media around the world.

That’s what convinced me that better tools — more tailored to the needs of journalists — were needed to help navigate this sea of data. And, that there was need for a guide for pull together tips, existing tools, advice and guidance.

I was lucky enough to be selected as a 2015 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. During that time, I interviewed dozens of journalists using social media in innovative and creative ways, spoke to the founders of many of the best social media tools, and to the social media companies themselves. And I tested dozens and dozens of tools.

Here’s a fun video I made while at Stanford…!

The result is this guide. I have tried to distill all the above into something as short, practical and to the point as possible.

One really important message that I want to get across is that you don’t have to be a journalist working in the social media realm for this to be important or relevant. Because so much of our lives have moved online, all journalists need to be skilled up in using social media for research, investigation, verification etc.

The guide is a starting point. It will get much better with your input, feedback, examples, and updates. So please do get in touch: or @cordeliaheb on Twitter.

Get started:

✳️ Organise

✳️ Locate

✳️ Verify

✳️ Search

✳️ Trending

✳️ More…

With thanks to…

At JSK/Stanford: Pam Maples, Djordje Padejski and the JSK Fellowships team. Jure Leskovec, Dan Nguyen, Christina Passariello, Dickens Olewe, jeremy hay, Zena Barakat, Michael Morisy, Charla Bear, Jiang Jing, Lou Hansen, and Najia Ashar. Krishna Bharat, Geoff McGhee, Carlos Martinez, Martin Quiroga

At the BBC: Mark Frankel, Trushar Barot, Ravin Sampat, Natalie Miller, Abdirahim Saeed, Boris van Hoytema, Mukul Devichand and Anca Toader.

Other journalists: Tory Starr, Andy Carvin, Holly Moore, Mike Mullane, Madiana Asseraf, Brian Ries, SarahMarshall, Jigar Mehta, Stephen Stock, Sahar Habib Ghazi, Claire Wardle at Tow Center for Digital Journalism and Masuma Ahuja.

Social media companies: Twitter: Joanna Geary, Andrew Fitzgerald, mark little Facebook/Instagram: Liz Heron, David Cuen, Dorrine Mendoza Google: Simon Rogers, Danielle Bowers YouTube: Brandon Feldman LinkedIn: Yumiwilson

Social media tools: Storyful: Joe Galvin, David Clinch, Mandy Jenkins, Peadar Grogan and Toby Leah Bochan. Tweetdeck: Robert Barnes, Banjo: Damien Patton Geofeedia: Carly Tschantz and Omar Elkuka TAME: Torsten Mueller, SAM: James A Neufeld, NewsWhip: Paul Quigley CrowdTangle: Brandon Silverman, Sysomos: Joe Turgeon TruthNest: Nikos Sarris

Oxford Internet Institute: Ralph Schroeder, Bernie Hogan and Eric Meyer.

And most of all Matt McGrath.



Cordelia Hebblethwaite
The Social Media Reporter

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