Ten years into the modern social media era can leave even the most reluctant digital reporter bored by tactics for news gathering online. Still, though the source gathering, link sharing and network building are common acts, there are other ways I use these open platforms.
Here are some of those ways.
Meetup.com to find local groups in my beat
Though the tech scene is a heavy user of Meetup.com, I am amazed by how many varied, specific and active groups use the tool to grow a community of events. It’s a great tool to find new sources and members of whatever your coverage area is. There is good search functionality, by geography and topic.
Flickr Creative Commons search
Image sourcing for improving engagement and better telling your story is a staple of digital reporting. Though making your own high quality images, infographics and other visuals is a priority and receiving these a source also works, when seeking additional images, there are few better places than the Advanced Search for ‘Creative Commons’ on Flickr, where you can find images users are comfortable with sharing, provided there is ample attribution.
LinkedIn for connections
When trying to find a contact at an organization, there is no better place to do that than by searching LinkedIn for that organization and seeing who from your network is connected to a resource. This requires, of course, reporters to connect to sources and friends on the network for it to work to its best strengths.
Facebook for personal updates
I couldn’t disagree more with the logic that beat reporters should avoid the digital intimacy of Facebook friendship with sources. Facebook is a place where generations of people share their most important updates first — personal, professional and otherwise. If you want early access to a range of sources and community members, you ought to be following their stories on Facebook.
SMS text for background
One of the most reliable ways to be able to have simple background questions answered or find contextual resources is to build a network of sources who are easily accessible. For me, that means my favorite sources and community members are the ones with whom I can text for feedback, background and detailed fact checking.
Twitter for context
Twitter is an established tool for finding leads and specific sources, I also find value in following how different corners of a given community react, respond and discuss a topic or issue. Those views help inform my questions and conversations with those whom I have more detailed discussions.
Instagram for boring photos
Laugh if you must, but the filters of the photo-sharing app and others do help bring out the best in otherwise dull photographs of sources, organizations and events.
reddit for virality lessons
Don’t bite of a given web forum like some have been accused, but instead take a popular network like reddit and see it as a chance to become a part of it. Share links that aren’t your own to better understand what virality looks and sounds like and have it inform how you share yours in the future.
Foursquare for locations
Though I like the idea of it and have tried on occasion to follow sources via gelocation apps like Foursquare I haven’t had much consistent success with.