Monday, 21 January 2013

Preparing for Facebook Graph Search

When looking for quotes for articles, publications have traditionally either sent reporters to the streets or have picked up the phone to call an expert. Recently, when writing about specific topics, the hashtag #journorequest has become very popular, with journalists looking for people to speak to through Twitter.

Facebook has been somewhat lagging in that aspect. First they allowed profiles to be publicly visible so that users could follow their favourite journalists/celebrities etc. This gave journalists a wider network and you'll often see some, especially Al Jazeera's Riyaad Minty asking questions to his followers. In return, he often gets between 20-100ish responses. Facebook's Graph Search goes a long way in allowing the social network to become a stronger, and more useful, force for reporters.

So what does it mean and how does it work?

Finding sources

Let's say that you're doing a series on The Future of the Left (a project that The Student Journals is currently undertaking right now). Finding MPs from specific parties is easy, your can find their email addresses on Parliament's website. Finding journalists is a little trickier and a number of columnists will likely not have publication-specific email addresses. So the easiest way to do that right now would be search one particular columnist and you'll often find that they are friends with many journalists with similar values. Yet what if you want to find members of the Young Labour, for example. Facebook currently doesn't really give you that capacity. With Graph Search, you'll be able to search this information.

This should, technically, work for more complicated searches too. For example, you might search: "People who went on a year abroad in the 2011/2012 academic year". This should search for students who spent a year away from their host university for a year.

Finding photos

Student media publications might find this very useful. Often they won't have a lot of many and paying for photos is not possible. Instead, they'll refer to Flickr for Creative Commons images and attribute an image to the photographer. Using Facebook's Graph Search would allow you to search for photos taken at a specific location at a specific time. Let's say, for example, you were looking for pictures of the UK riots taken in Lewisham.

You can put all that information into the search boxes, with specific dates and find images. A short message would then need to be sent, requesting permission to use the picture, but it's worth it if you can get a better picture, or a picture that tells a better story.


If you're a journalist, or going into journalism, here are your next steps:
  1. Go to the bottom of this page, and click 'sign up'. You want to be one of the first it's available to.
  2. If you're open on Twitter, you should be open on Facebook. Look at Nick Kristof's and Zach Seward's profiles for examples of journalists who use Facebook particularly well. So go ahead and let people subscribe to you. A huge number of people prefer Facebook to Twitter and the publications you write for will be happy that you're good at promoting your own work. If you are doing this, however, make sure that you check and double check your privacy settings so subscribers can't see anything you don't them to.

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Originally published in Save the Media, Save the World.

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