Using Storify as your one-stop social network search engine – and 12 tips on how to do it

Hmmm. Social networks. So much information, but in so many places. For journalists, this is both blessing and curse.

Social network search engines vary in terms of reliability and depth of coverage – especially where keeping an eye on Facebook is factored in.

Until now.

Storify wasn’t built – as far as I’m aware – as a social network search engine, but that’s exactly what it requires to work.

Storify allows users to build stories around things which have been posted on social media. As far as I can tell, it’s designed to curate after the event, but I also think it has legs as a live-blogging tool, but more on that another time.

And for journalists covering a breaking news event, Storify could be the thing you’ve been waiting for – even if you don’t plan to create a Storify. Here are 12 tips for getting the most out of it.


1. Use it to create a Storify.

A stupid place to start? Maybe. But as you’re using it to search for stuff, you might as well record it as you go, by dragging it from the right hand column across to the left. That might just be to store the stuff you find interesting, but if you’ve stored the stuff, you might as well publish it and put it at the bottom of your story.

2. If at first you don’t succeed, search, search and search again

With social network search, you need to use the words the people using the social networks use. Google joins the dots between your search term and what you’re looking for, but social network search generally is more literal than that. So when I started searching for Rossendale, I didn’t get too many results. But when I began going through place by place, eg Haslingden, Rawtenstall and Ramsbottom (other Rossendale towns are available), the results become more apparent.

3. Make a beeline for Facebook

rossendale4I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a good set of results from any social network search engine which claims to cover Facebook.

In a very short period of time, I  found a number of statuses which would tick the box of being suitable for a story – someone who made it home thanks only to mountain rescue, someone who had a rather dramatic journey home (see above) and businesses who were set to lose a weekend’s takings.

Of course, that’s just the start of the story – but at least you know who to go to for the full story.

4. Filter out retweets

rossendale1On the Twitter search, you have a the option to include links and retweets. I find filtering out retweets cuts out a lot of noise – you aren’t reading the same tweet again and again and again.

5. Use Twitter images

On the screengrab above you can see a tab called images. Make sure you click that to check for pictures. It may just bring up the regular search results, but if you’re in a hurry and don’t want to wade through text as well, this is a good place to go.

6. Beware the ‘near’ option

For a location filter to work, I’m guessing you need to be making your location data available to Twitter. Don’t assume everyone does – and only use the filter option if you’re finding a lot of comments about the story you’re covering from outside the area. In the case of the snow in Rossendale, it was quite a local thing, so it didn’t really matter, but if Birmingham erupted into riots again, you might want to seek for source who were actually eyewitnesses rather than just commentators. But the location filter could also filter out your eyewitness.

7. Embed Tweets – especially pictures

This is perhaps the most dramatic picture I saw of the snow:

The best way to use this online is to embed it into your story, using the embed option which sits under every Tweet. To get to a Tweet you’ve found, drag it into the Storify and then click on it.

For print, it’s always worth asking if you can use it. I’ve rarely heard someone say no – I have heard of a lot of people getting upset if their picture is used without asking.


8. Get your criteria right on YouTube

On the YouTube option, it asks you to choose how you want your results order. Select ‘published’ – to ensure the newest ones come up first.

9. Be careful with Flickr

With Flickr results, be careful about checking when the image was taken – some of the great snow photos I saw when quite old. Dragging them into your Storify gives you the date they were uploaded, clicking on the image and going through to Flickr tells you when it was taken (normally).

10. Don’t forget Instagram

Because of the filters on many Instagram images, they can be hard to use. But that doesn’t stop them being a good source of information from images. And they also tend to be more likely to include people:

11. More than just social networks too


Storify also provides instant search of Google. For a breaking news event you’re covering, or for research alongside your social media search, this is a handy thing to have available.

12. Beware of hoaxes

According to this Tweeter, not only did it snow in Rossendale, the building became Alpine in style too. Social media is rife with jokes – so fact checking remains ever important:

11 thoughts on “Using Storify as your one-stop social network search engine – and 12 tips on how to do it

  1. Hi David. I found this really useful. I’ve got a question though. In point seven you say it’s great to use Twitter pictures through an embedded Storify. However, and I may well be wrong, I think a Storify publisher would be in breach of copyright if they used a third party’s picture on their website. I still think you need to ask permission, especially if the person who tweeted the orginal picture is a professional photographer. I know media outlets who have received invoices in the past and have had to pay out.

    1. It is a grey area but, from memory, in the Twitter Ts and Cs it does say:

      “The Content you submit, post, or display will be able to be viewed by other users of the Services and through third party services and websites”

      Therefore, to me, using the embed code provided by Twitter (which is essentially what Storify does) covers this in a way lifting it and uploading it wouldn’t.

      But a grey area and one worth raising.

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