Journalists have been using Twitter for reporting and sourcing news stories since the very beginning. We will explain why Twitter data is crucial to journalists and its uses.
Twitter is a key player during national or international events such as elections, protests, natural disasters, pandemics, etc. When there is an event concerning the public, Twitter is flooded with information, opinions, and media.
On Twitter, journalists can access public content such as eyewitness accounts, images and videos, as well as public profiles such as government agents. That makes Twitter a gateway to lucrative sources for news and media companies.
Let’s look at the 10 reasons journalists need Twitter data and how they use it.
- Finding Information and Media
- Finding Tweets from Official Sources
- Using Geocode to Download Tweets Near a Specific Location
- Uncovering Online Propaganda
- Understanding the Public’s Sentiment About a News Report or an Event
- Downloading Lists and Gathering Contacts
- Checking the Credibility and Bias of Sources
- Tracking Back to Historical Events
- Keeping a Copy of Twitter Data: Tweets, Media, Mentions, DMs, Followers
- Getting A Story in Front of A Target Audience
Finding Information and Media
Participating in the Twitterverse as a journalist is a must to keep a finger on the public’s pulse. But apart from that, Twitter makes finding valuable information such as eyewitness accounts and media from an event easier.
Twitter's advanced search function lets you filter tweets by keywords, location, dates, retweet/like/reply counts, etc. Keywords such as shot, dead, saw, witnessed, earthquake and others that can point toward breaking stories can be monitored with Twitter tools such as TweetDeck.
However, scrolling through these tweets is a manual task, and the usability of this data is low since you can’t view and filter them on a datasheet.
Instead of scrolling, downloading this tweet data and filtering it on a spreadsheet can save journalists time. They can easily find eyewitness accounts or tweets from official sources to build up their news report. twtData’s newest feature lets you download advanced search tweets, plus you will get your hands on more data than what Twitter displays, including;
- Protected status
- Verified status
- Followers count
- Following count
- Tweet count
- Listed count
- Retweet count
- Like count
Finding Tweets From Official Sources
To find tweets by official sources, journalists who specialise in local news can build up Lists of officials to monitor their tweets; for example, Twitter accounts such as the mayor, local MPs, fire department, police department etc. These profiles are usually “verified users” with a blue badge next to their display name.
Journalists can use third-party tools to access the most recent tweets by verified accounts; Twitter’s advanced search screen doesn’t provide this option. So when there is a breaking story, journalists can use twtData’s service to download advanced search tweets, and they will be able to filter tweets by verified users on the dashboard.
Using Geocode to Download Tweets Near a Specific Location
Thanks to Twitter, citizen journalism is popular and more news-worthy than ever. Many journalists can now work from their desks and get their hands on eyewitness accounts, images and videos from specific events worldwide.
Members of the public report immediate reactions to events, protests and activities on Twitter. They also tweet images and videos from locations when there has been an incident.
Journalists need to reach out and ask for permission to publish these reactions or media material. For example, The Guardian was writing a breaking news story about a fire in London, and they reached out to a user who had the footage.
So using geocode and filtering tweets by location isn’t a new thing. But how is it done?
To filter tweets from an exact location, you need the geocode and radius of where the event has happened. Let’s take Kyiv Town Centre as an example.
The geocode for Kyiv Town Centre is 50.454108,30.516734.
You can type this on Twitter advanced search by adding a radius. For example: geocode:50.454108,30.516734,10km
You can also add a keyword, such as “tank”, allowing you to find related photos and videos.
To fine-tune your search even further, you can add more functions such as:
- Filter:media - use this to search for tweets containing any media.
- Filter:native_video - search for mentions that contain an uploaded video
- Filter:links - search mentions that contain a URL
- Filter:images - search for mentions that contain photos or links to photos
- Url:kyiv - search for tweets with links that contain your chosen keyword in the URLs
- from:userhandle - search tweets from a specific account
- from:user1handle to user2handle - use this to find the mentions from one account to another
- ? - search for tweets containing a question
You’re limited to loading a certain number of tweets with the advanced search option, but you can download advanced search tweets to filter through them on a spreadsheet or data analytics software.
Uncovering Online Propaganda
Twitter data also becomes useful when journalists try to uncover online propaganda led by certain groups and organisations, especially during political events such as a referendum, an election, etc.
Political campaigns may use fake or bot accounts to show support for their campaigns or to spread fake news. For example, Trump’s 2016 candidacy raised concerns regarding the use of Twitter and Facebook in promoting fake news and running online smear campaigns. Therefore, knowing how to identify bot accounts and tweets by fake accounts is essential for journalists, which is possible by analysing Twitter data.
Journalists can use twtData to identify fake, and bot accounts following or tweeting about a candidate, then remove these accounts from their reports to analyse the true public sentiment about a candidate.
Understanding the true public sentiment towards candidates, policies, and political decisions helps journalists write impartial news reports or collect more information about what’s going on behind the scenes of political support, scandals, etc.
Understanding the Public’s Sentiment About a News Report or an Event
- Public sentiment analysis by keyword
To analyse the public sentiment about a topic, issue or anything else, gather your keywords first. For example, if you’re looking into public sentiment about Covid-19 vaccines being mandatory, you can use keywords such as “vaccine”, “mandatory”, “covid-19 vaccines”, “get vaccinated”, “vaccination”, etc.
- Public sentiment analysis by location and language
Data journalists can build maps and visualise the sentiment on vaccines by region if they narrow down their keyword search by location and language. Filtering tweets by location data and language, they can look into how people from different backgrounds evaluate an event, news, etc.
- Public sentiment analysis by URL
To understand the public sentiment about news reports, you can paste the URL of the article on Twitter search to see what people are saying about it. Then, download the tweets that mention the URL and perform analytics on the data like sentiment analysis.
Downloading Lists and Gathering Contacts
Twitter Lists allows users to customise, organise and prioritise tweets from certain users, which helps declutter their Twitter feed. You can use lists to monitor tweets from your chosen Twitter accounts in a different feed. You can also follow other Lists Twitter users have created.
Twitter Lists are important for journalists to keep up with certain accounts such as government officials, industry experts or media sources. If you are a journalist, following others’ lists and getting in touch with list members can expand your circle too.
You can look into other journalists’ or media companies’ lists for inspiration and find key people in government, media, or private companies. Building good relations and a strong network is necessary for journalists to improve their influence and get more critical work assigned.
For example, certain organisations or companies make a list of their staff members (i.e. Amnesty’s People), and downloading or following such lists can help remove noise and focus on tweets that matter or find sources to reach out for relevant news reports.
It takes years to build up these lists, and journalists may prefer to keep these private so others don’t have access to their sources. If other journalists’ lists are public, you may want to download a copy of their list or follow it. In case of suspension or hacking, use twtData to automatically backup your Twitter account every week to secure your lists.
Checking the Credibility and Bias of Sources
Running a background check on your sources and interviewees can bring new information to light. If they have a public Twitter profile, it’s worth checking their tweets, followers and following data.
If they say they work for the government or another official organisation, the chances of them having a public, verified profile is higher. That is also worth checking before proceeding to the interview.
You can analyse their Twitter account to understand their political views and if they have any bias. Download their tweets to run a quick tweet analysis by using relevant keywords.
Tracking Back to Historical Events
Most controversies start on Twitter and are discussed in detail by the public. There are even several news stories that first broke on Twitter.
Journalists not only report on current events but also historical ones. Therefore, finding patterns between worldwide events and reporting them is also important.
So far, Twitter’s role in fuelling certain behaviour has been significant. For example, when Elon Musk changed his Twitter bio to #bitcoin in January 2021, the price of Bitcoin shot from $36,000 to $38,000. If someone were to find similar occurrences in the past, they would need historical tweet data.
Tracking back to historical tweets is possible with Twitter's advanced search. Although it allows you to search old tweets, its function is limited because it doesn’t display all tweets, you need to scroll to see the tweets and you can’t skim through multiple keywords. Additionally, you cannot perform further analysis on the website. So, when looking for historical tweets from an account or about an event, downloading Twitter data can simplify gathering insight.
Keeping a Copy of Twitter Data: Tweets, Media, Mentions, DMs, Followers
Usually, once something is shared on the internet, it’s always there (apart from Trump’s tweets). However, Twitter still holds the right to suspend accounts permanently and make some accounts’ data unavailable to the public. In this case, you might want to backup the Twitter data of some accounts you follow closely.
Journalists can also be suspended or become the subject of hacking, so they need to keep a copy of their account data such as tweets, followers, DMs and lists.
Getting A Story in Front of A Target Audience
When creating targeted ads on Twitter, journalists and media companies can use Twitter data and analytics to identify their target audience’s interests and demographics. They can also build a specific audience by using Twitter handles.
Just as any other industry, media companies are fighting for audiences’ attention. By downloading their competitors’ follower data and performing follower analysis, companies can better understand their strengths and weaknesses in using social media marketing.
They can also target their competitor’s audience, or specific audiences such as football fans, people interested in health and wellness etc., to increase their reach.
At twtData, we’re the most competitively priced Twitter data provider in the market. We provide reliable and raw Twitter data for those who want to:
- Download historical tweets
- Perform followers analysis
- Download tweets from multiple accounts
- Download tweets of multiple hashtag for research
- Weekly Backup of all tweets, followers, following, DMs, Lists etc.
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