Social media are good tools for crowdsourcing, i.e. collecting material from the audience. What’s the best way of finding what you want? Ask!
Please retweet Twitter has a culture of users often retweeting your posts if you ask them to do so, thus spreading your query.
Use Facebook groups From music fans to local interest groups: Niche Facebook groups can be a great help when you are looking for experts, opinions or case studies on a particular topic. It is important to be clear that you are joining the group as a journalist, to respect the group’s rules and to make clear where and how the material will be used. Remember also that it may take a while for posts to appear in followers’ feeds, so advance planning is beneficial. Read more about groups here.
Choose the platform based on the audience you want Remember that a post on a platform can never reach all types of voices. Spread your inquiry across several if you want a diversity of responses.
Hopefully, you already know which type of audience you have and/or reach on different platforms – if not, take a look at your statistics tools. In general, Snapchat and Instagram reach a younger public, Twitter reaches an international public (the platform is much bigger in countries such as the US and UK than in Sweden), plus activists and people interested in the news, and on Facebook it depends on the niche of the group or page.
Find out what various people, organisations and groups have said or are saying about various topics
Search for articles on social networks and forums
Search for specific Facebook groups (interests/patient groups/professional groups)
Look at niche forums and apps for a narrower public such as minority communities
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat all have search functions that can be used to find the content of sites and apps. You can often narrow down a search by combining search words with locations, accounts, hashtags, etc. Trial and error is the best approach.
Whether you are looking for existing photos or new photos, social media are a huge source of information. Have you found some interesting image content? Remember always to make sure that the photo is genuine and to acknowledge the photographer/origin.
You can often use photos posted on social media to verify their genuineness and that of other claims that may be made about a location or event, among other things by looking at metadata. More about that here.
Find case studies and follow up on issues in comments fields.
People leave comments because they care about an issue and want to react to or expand on what has been published. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more. Have you seen something that seems to be of interest? Ask questions and follow up. It may be the start of a good story, even a scoop. See where the thread leads as it is shared. Where does the conversation appear? What is being said there?
Whether you encourage people to respond to your posts or not, you should check your inbox on all social media that you use. You may get a steady flow of tips and interesting approaches.
Direct Messages (DM) may be how your audience share more sensitive information that they might not want to share in a public feed. However, avoid handling sensitive information and contact with anonymous informants via social media messaging functions (DM, Messenger, etc.), and move the contact to a more secure environment. You can find more about source protection here.
Fake photos and incorrect information are spread often, particularly in crisis situations. In such cases, it is important to be sure of where material comes from. Read more about how to verify material generated by the public under Fast news research and Source criticism.
Last but not least: Give feedback. Show the audience that you are using their stories in your journalism. This often has the effect that their followers come back and contribute again.