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Mining social networks

By Jessica Pupovac

One of the best things about social media for journalists, Doug Haddix said, is that most people don’t understand what’s private and what isn’t.

“Too bad for them. But good for us.” Haddix said during his presentation on social media sleuthing. Haddix, who is the Director of the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism at Ohio State University, also posted his presentation online

Twitter might be Haddix’s favorite tool. Many people (including some now infamous politicians) don’t always realize that when they send someone a message using their handle (or @symbol). So, dig in.  Search for their names in Twitter and you might find some good dirt. However, if you are trying to fly under the radar, be careful not to “follow” your targets, because they’ll know, Haddix said. Just check in with their account ocassionally.

Several tools have popped up to help you more effectively mine Twitter.

  • Storify — helps you visualize Tweets.
  • Twazzup — a great site for looking at trends and sources around any hashtag, handle or hot topic.
  • Twellow — helps you find Twitter user’s presence outside of Twitter.

Haddix also shared several sites that sift through Twitter and other social media sites. Pipl, 123people and PeekYou are all good for finding out more about people and their connections., meanwhile, has an advanced search function that actually allows you to drill down to posts within a geographic area, or based on their tone or position on an issue. Last but not least, Blinx is a great site for finding for any type of video that has not been uploaded onto YouTube (and that people may or may not want you to discover).

And, finally…. (drum roll, please) LinkedIn. Many reporters don’t realize it, but LinkedIn is a super-stealth way for you to find former employees, track companies’ activities and find out more about people’s history, Haddix said. (If they are being accurate, that is). To do all of this, however, you need a Pro account. Usually, these memberships cost money. However, if you take a 30-minute “LinkedIn for Journalists” webinar, they will give you one for free for a year. Send a message to Krista Canfield, who manages the group, and tell her that you are a working reporter who is interested. She’ll tell you when the next event will be held and — viola!

Happy hunting.

Jessica Pupovac is a graduate student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She is currenlty interning at NPR StateImpact

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