Mining Social Media for Story Ideas [VIDEO]

Jul 1, 2013


Credit MDGovpics (CC-BY)

Want to put social media and your community to work for you to find story ideas? Eric Athas and Teresa Gorman walk you through how to to utilize your social media community on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit to find sources and story ideas for on-air and online.   


How to Identify and Track Your Social Community from NPR Digital Services on Vimeo.

Highlights Timestamped to Video

5:35: Why Use Social Media for Reporting?

It can be a valuable tool for finding sources, finding ideas early, tracking and connecting with community and following breaking news. 


6:20-15:26  A demo of Twitter search and advanced search

What are people in your area talking about and sharing? Use Twitter to find out.

  • Twitter Search: Make your searches pointed and try different combinations of words and spelling if you have a specific topic in mind.  Use advanced search by location to make sure Tweets are locally relevant. For example, here’s a search for “medical marijuana” near Los Angeles: You can also search what people are saying about a story you've  posted by searching the url of the story. For example: 

15:45 -22:00 A demo of creating and using Twitter lists to follow news and specific categories.

  • Twitter Lists: Use Twitter lists to find people that are local and talking about topics that you are covering. Use your own Twitter lists, and check other Twitter accounts' lists as well. Find out more about Twitter Lists in this helpful FAQ.


22:30- 38:30 An explanation of what Reddit is, along with a demo of how to search, find subreddits and look for story ideas. 

Reddit is a big online community made up of many smaller communities. There is a lot of everything on Reddit and most of what you see will likely not be of journalistic value to you. But there are gems that can lead to story ideas and news tips. 

  • Check your area's Reddit community for ideas: For example, LA has its own Reddit: and Boston has its own Reddit:
  • Look for Reddit communities by searching: or by guessing. Every Reddit community can be found by finishing this URL: Check out what people are talking about in your area's Reddit community, and don't forget to check out the comments on the posts for additional story idea fodder.
  • Here's a fun trick: you can see what stories have been shared from your site on Reddit by putting your url in the blank:, for example:
  • Learn more information about Reddit in this webinar with KBIA and WAMU.

 More search ideas mentioned in the webinar but not demonstrated: 


People are using their phones to record video all around you. Find those videos and use them for story ideas using YouTube.

  • Search YouTube and filter by upload date to give you the most recent searches. For example, here's a search for "hurricane sandy new york" filtered by upload date.
  • Think about news happening in your local area right now and be pointed with your searches. For example, if there's a protest happening in downtown Boston right now, you might search "protest boston" and filter by upload date.
  • Advanced Tips: Learn more about searching YouTube for local news videos in this webinar.


There are over a billion people on Facebook sharing updates full of possibilities for stories. 

  • Facebook Public Posts: You can often search public posts on Facebook. You can search via sites such as or adding to a Google search.
  • Facebook Graph Search: Facebook's 'graph search' will allow you to find sources and follow news. Some ideas how to do that from Facebook.
  • Facebook Groups: Search Facebook groups to find local conversations and sources, too.



There are several different ways to search LinkedIn for story ideas

  • Use advanced people search to find sources, and people that work at specific companies.
  • Check out local companies. Updates from all employees affiliated with the company will show up here, so you can see any updates about who has joined a company or recently left. You can also see job posts, so you can track if there are any big changes coming.

More resources:


How to Identify Sources and Stories on Social Media from nprdigital