Week 13 – Social Media

UPDATED Sept 2018 / Sharron Lovell


  • M: am
  • Social Media Journalism Introduction

  • Social Media Journalism for News-gathering, Distribution & Engagement

  • Key Social Media Journalism Key Platforms
  • M: pm
  • Optimizing journalism content across platforms
  • Class Exercise – Tailor Social Media Posts for 4 Key Platforms
  • T: am
  • T1 Final Assesment Briefing
  • Social Media Journalism Assignment Briefing / Inspirations
  • Breaking News Exercise 
  • T: pm
  • Key Ethical, Privacy & Security Issues for Social Media Journalism
  • Unsolved issues
  • Assignment Planning Session
  • W: 10-4pm
  • MoJo Workshop with Andrea Verdeli


*Analytics will be covered in T2


Topic – Bike Sharing (find your own angle – you might talk about the problems or solutions, or both). 

Publication – your personal social media accounts and our public facing IMMJ accounts. But! Each team needs to pretend they are publishing for a real news outlet. Pick the publication/channel of your choice and aim to follow their style. (BBC, CTGN, VICE, Now This News, CNN Great Big Story, AJ+, The Economist, Caixin etc). You’ll need to identify your intended publication/channel and have at least one ‘Style Inspiration’ from your chosen publication/channel.

Guidelines – You can be as creative as you like – Remember, a video doesn’t necessarily mean a single character-based story, you might try to create: An explainer video with montage footage; A pop-vox; Or your video might not be filmed but instead be an animated data visualization; Or perhaps you might illustrate a graphic journalism work. Also, unless you’ve specifically been set a video assignment you could skip the video and focus on graphics/photography. 

In pairs create a single piece / or a series of journalistic platform-native content for your assigned platform. (*Note, there are a number of different terms in use for platform-native, e.g. “distributed-content”). The content should be optimized and carefully edited for your assigned platform. 

Students will select their own partner. Instead of the usual broad assignment where all students do the same assignment, this week each student pair will be assigned a specific assignment brief to create platform-native social media content. Note that each platform has a variety of ‘types’ of native content, for example, Facebook has one assignment for the Live Video team and a different assignment for the Readable Video team. We have tried to stick to what’s trending right now – you’ll need to do some independent study and research your teams’ platform and content type very well in order to prepare.

Don’t think social media or short content means an easy or fast assignment! Quality content however short it takes good preparation, research fieldwork, and editing. Think quality, not quantity. This is your final assignment, our expectations are high – we expect that mistakes made earlier in the term will have now been rectified and tutors will be looking professional, polished work. Those assignments that are of suitable quality will be published on the IMMJ public facing media accounts. 

Submission (posting)

  • Use your own accounts to post your assignments. Each pair of partners should post identical content. 
  • In addition, your posted content must be embedded or linked to via your student digital platforms – so that tutors can view and assess. Don’t simply upload content – link to the actual posts you made. Link to the posts. 
  • For Instagram stories which disappear after 24 hours, you will need to save the story or make a screen recording and embed it that way. 
  • On your student digital platform please include a very short paragraph to identify your intended publication/channel and link to at least one ‘Style Inspiration’ from your chosen publication/channel. For example…
  • “Our team’s Publication/channel is @BBCNewsGraphics. We like the way they visualize data, especially the way they make the complicated Brexit news easier to understand. We especially like these examples below and will try to use them as models/inspirations for our own assignment
  1. https://twitter.com/BBCNewsGraphics/status/1063086128482394112
  2. https://twitter.com/BBCNewsGraphics/status/1063085503266934785

When assessing your work, tutors will be looking at the quality of the journalism underpinning your stories (accuracy/fairness/balance), as well as your storytelling, technique, editing, and presentation – we’ll also consider audience engagement! Did people click, like, comment, share? Which pieces worked, which didn’t and why.

There are 13 specific assignments in total and as we have 26 students – you’ll need to find a partner from your media team. 2 students will be left over and form a pair with a special assignment.

Specific assignments below:

  1. FACEBOOK LIVE (One pair from the Facebook team) – See http://training.npr.org/social-media/nprs-facebook-live-guide/ – Be creative there are many approaches you could use. You’ll need a clear idea and you’ll need to plan well as you’ll be live rather than editing afterward – obviously you’ll need good mobile internet.  Be sure to brainstorm in the class planning session with a tutor.
  2. FACEBOOK READABLE VIDEO (One pair from the Facebook team) – similar to the very first video assignment, AJ+ & Now this News pioneered this now ubiquitous format. We are looking for a big improvement on the first assignment. The reporting, editing, and the title design will be important.
  3. FACEBOOK SQUARE OR VERTICAL VIDEO – (One pair from the Facebook team) – The content and style are up to you, make sure you research and plan well.
  4. INSTAGRAM STORY – (One pair from the Insta team) please spend plenty of time looking at Instagram stories. The Guardian “Fake or Real” is a nice example of something very different. But students can create any style of content. Pictures, videos, text or a mix as they see fit.
  5. INSTAGRAM PHOTO ESSAY – (One pair from the Insta team) A stills photo essay – in the traditional sense. You can choose to publish via a gallery or series. Be aware, the gallery format limits captions though.
  6. INSTAGRAM ‘STORY PORTRAIT’ ESSAY – (One pair from the Insta team) A stills series of portraits with captions. Tim Franco’s work on North Koreans is a good example, there are many others.
  7. TWITTER SERIES – (one pair from the Twitter team) – A series of 3 to 8 posts that incorporate some form of visual journalism (video/photography/Data Visualization). Graphics/illustrations and gifs can work well too!
  8. TWITTER SQUARE OR VERTICAL VIDEO – (one pair from the Twitter team) – The content and style are up to you, make sure you research and plan well.
  9. TWITTER READABLE VIDEO – (one pair from the Twitter team) similar to the very first video assignment, AJ+ & Now this News pioneered this now ubiquitous format. We are looking for a big improvement on the first assignment. The reporting, editing, and the title design will be important.
  10. WEIBO – (one pair from the WeChat team) – A series of 3 to 6 posts that incorporate some form of visual journalism (video/photography/Data Visualization/gif) and one Weibo survey vote (微博投票).
  11. WEIBO – Readable Video (one pair from the WeChat team)  – Check how PearVideo promotes their readable video. It’s similar to the very first video assignment, AJ+ & Now this News pioneered this now ubiquitous format. We are looking for a big improvement on the first assignment. The reporting, editing, and the title design will be important.
  12. WEIBO – VERTICAL VIDEO – (one pair from the Wechat team) – The content and style are up to you, make sure you research and plan well.
  13. SQUARE OR VERTICAL VIDEO – (This is for the leftover pair) this could be published to the platform of your choice. (Insta, youtube, Facebook, WeChat)

Your assignment should be VISUALACCESSIBLE and have NEWS VALUE. Be sure to optimize and stick to native uploads, for example, a Twitter video is limited to 45 seconds while Instagram videos can be 60 seconds and on Facebook, you have more flexibility!


Assessment checklist & pointers – Be clear on assessment criteria before you set out – AND CHECK THIS LIST BEFORE YOU POST.
  • All teams MUST provide one single SM journalistic content that provides a ‘style inspiration’ – you should do this is via a brief paragraph on your own digital platform.
  • All teams must publish by the deadline to their own personal accounts. If the content is up to professional standard for publication we will also publish it on our public accounts).
  • In addition, all teams must embed or post the link of the SM publication to their digital platform. (Tutors need to see the work as published via SM platform, as we will be assessing audience engagement etc)
  • Quality of journalism – suitably clear focus
  • Quality of journalism – suitably accurate, fair, balanced
  • Quality of journalism – suitably credible, diverse sources
  • Quality of journalism – suitably informative and compelling
  • Quality of technique/equipment – competent use of equipment + good camerawork & editing etc
  • Clear relevant research & self-study – ie, it needs to be clear that students understand how media organizations and freelancers are using the platform they are assigned – this will be demonstrated by suitable content
  • Post optimization appropriate to the platform
  • Edited to a quality publishable journalistic standard. The text is copy edited, facts are checked, links are working etc. This is a VERY IMPORTANT POINT.
  • Other things we take into account are:
  • Creative + Innovative – (If enough research is done, this will come naturally)
  • Audience Engagement – Likes, shares, comments etc (checked after 5 days – that means you need to share it immediately on publication and as widely as you possibly can!)
  • SM needs to grab people fast – the first 3-5 seconds are critical – use the strongest visuals and materials up front.
  • Your SM needs to be visual in some way – plan hard prior to fieldwork
  • You’ve been given very targeted platforms and types of content – but actually, there is a lot of freedom to be creative! You should, however, have a solid inspiration in mind. Maybe you like BBCstories or maybe you like the way a certain photographer or media org uses Instagram stories? Find your inspiration –  you’ll need a style (not content) inspiration or idea to emulate BEFORE reporting.
  • You will need to do your own research of your assigned platform well before the assignment to get an idea of how journalists and media organizations use specific platforms – we’ve given you heaps of examples to start you off!
  • If you want to use your mobile phone to report this story you may – that’s up to you. It will somewhat depend on your chosen style inspiration. If you do use mobile we expect excellent quality and great audio!
  • Duration – as long as it needs to be or native timings. You should think about this at the planning stage.
  • Stick to native uploads so they play when scrolling without your audience needing to click.


Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Weibo, and WeChat have firmly established themselves as both an essential part of the newsgathering process and platforms where the news is shared and consumed.

We encourage IMMJ students to open accounts on popular social media sites to develop skills for monitoring and reporting the news, and to build up contacts. Students will also need to contribute to the IMMJ public facing media accounts. You are also encouraged to use social networks as a tool to interact with others, engage in the real-time news process, tap into new sources and identify trends.

Finally, we underline solid journalistic practice, social media journalism is journalism and should be practiced with the same level of accuracy, fairness, and balance as any reporting. Speed never trumps quality. 

Here are some notes to help you review concepts and skills covered in class, there are also resources for independent study. 


Overview: You might think that social media is simply used for publishing and sharing but journalists can use social media in many more ways. Social media is a great tool for finding stories and news gathering (reporting). It can be used to research and understand the larger contextual issues and discourses surrounding a story, as well as to find fresh and unique story angles. It can also be used to source information and interview sources to include in your actual stories.

For example, let’s say I’m interested in the topic of LBTQ+ issues in China – I might follow @halfthesky49 on Twitter and their associated (closed) Facebook Group – a space aimed at students, scholars, journalists, and anyone interested in gender, sexuality, and feminism in China. They share up-to-date news, articles, conferences and lots of other resources. They also welcome members to share relevant stories, links, info and engage in respectful discussion. Following these posts for a few weeks will educate me about broader contextual issues for my reporting and alert me to new and ongoing stories – it will also alert me to relevant influential and spokespeople. This helps me to find and connect with experts for advice or comment on my story. I might also follow some active members of China’s LGBTQ+ community on Instagram to keep my finger on the pulse with a slightly different (maybe younger) community. Instagram is also a great way to scout visuals and locations – perhaps I’m interested in what’s happening with China’s Ghost Cities today or the Beijing Club scene – I can search ‘places’ on Instagram to take a look at locations and even find and connect with people living/clubbing there – those who are directly impacted and involved in my story. 

Key points: 

  • Use SM  to gather sources, information, and material for stories. As journalists working on a story or beat – you’ll need to find a wide range of voices, perspectives, eyewitness or people impacted by an issue – and find actual subjects and experts for your stories.
  • Watch this to see how professional Journalists use SM in breaking news
  • As student journalists, you can also utilize SM to report your longer form multimedia feature stories: use SM to map & monitor communities, issues, and people relevant to your journalistic interests – you’ll be alerted to ideas for stories and find potential sources too. (There’s a bonus tip here)
  • SM can also be used to source eyewitness media that can be utilized in your reporting. Here’s some good advice for sourcing eyewitness media from social networks

Top reads/resources:


Overview: Use social media to get facts, information, and stories out into the world! Publish short form content directly or to drive people to longer form content on your site/page. Both huge news organizations and individual freelancers can successfully use social media to report, publish and build an audience. Don’t use your social media feeds like an advertising platform though – if you only post your own published work – your feeds will be pretty boring.  

Key points

  • Try using ‘teasers’ or snippets to push audiences to bigger projects on site
  • Show backstories while reporting on the ground
  • Live-reporting via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook live can be useful and is popular.
  • Optimize your SM posts: tailor content to make it work to it’s best on each platform if possible, make the media viewable/playable within the platform itself (i.e. don’t link to a page with a youtube video, but use the youtube URL plays when clicked. Better still, if the content is yours, upload natively so content auto-plays when scrolling. Are Twitter links shortened using a URL shortener?
  • Use #hashtags to make it easier to search and filter your posts
  • Using @mentions to notify others of your posts
  • Write clear and concise sentences, that are well considered and crafted
  • Edit your work carefully! In the quick-fire world of social media, it’s easy for a journalist or news organization to make mistakes. Mistakes do happen, but social media carries no less need for accuracy and accountability than any other medium. Copy edit and check for accuracy. Heres an accuracy checklist

Top reads/resources:


Overview: This is a huge and complex topic and audience engagement means different things to different journalists and organizations, meanwhile journalists have different ways and levels of engagement – there’s no formula. But it’s important to understand that news has changed from a one to many model to a many to many model – and engagement is more than just a buzzword, it’s an essential part of journalism.  You’ll need to figure out your own strategies suitable for you and your work. 

Key points

  • Use SM to listen to and talk to your audience – for example, via facebook, twitter, and Instagram comments. Read and respond to comment threads, set the direction and tone of the conversation, and encourage helpful contributions.
  • Try including and highlighting community and public comments. Making those voices a part of the content can encourage participation and crucially, is often great content.
  • Show the “behind the scenes” involve your audience and show them what journalism is like. Instagram and Facebook stories are great for this. 
  • Ask your audience for suggestions – while you’re formulating your focus and questions to explore – ask your community what they most want to know about the story and issue.
  • Share as you go – tell people what you are working on and share reporting snippets, like an interesting quote or picture. Let them know to stay tuned for the rest of the story. 

Top reads/resources:


Overview: This is a huge area, but we want to focus on two key points: accuracy and verification. Accuracy is one of the absolute fundamentals of journalism (accuracy, fairness, and balance). Your ability to be accurate will impact your grades (remember poor journalism will fail, however flashy it looks). Ensure accuracy with verification. 

Key points

  • Double check everything! Make notes when reporting – don’t trust your memory. If you are not sure, ask! and fact check! Verify facts via second sources.
  • Examine where you are getting your information from, what agenda the source might have and look for facts and evidence to support claims and perspectives. Question and verify your sources. If you are interviewing someone, ask them for evidence for the claims they make. If you are using numbers or information from a research report read the original report and check for credibility.
  • Search hard for other sources of information that support and counter information you’ve found
  • Eyewitness media can be amazing, giving you on the ground information and insights. But it needs strict verification. If you use eyewitness information you’ll need to carefully examine their digital footprint. What kind of things do they typically post? Do they appear credible? Are they accountable – are they anonymous or clear about who they are? Can you contact them directly for confirmation – if so do! Call them! Much better to call than sending a message, a phone call is more candid, you’ll be able to tell much better if they are credible or not. Can you cross check the information they provide with another source?
  • Transparency is key. If you can’t verify the facts, you may still decide to publish when relevant but you’ll need to make it VERY CLEAR that the information has not been verified and is disputable.


  • Check photos and videos by checking the weather forecast, environment etc. Use tools such as Google Reverse Image Search and TinEye Reverse Image Search.
  • Has the video or photo been edited perhaps, is context missing? Or has it been tampered with?
  • Don’t publish eyewitness media content in your own reporting without considering consent or crediting. Heres a great guide below – we suggest printing and saving. 


Top reads/resources:


Overview: Employers will be looking at your accounts, just as we look at them when considering you for the program. If a student already has a professional social media presence it’s a huge boost. You can also show future employers the IMMJ posts and accounts that you have been responsible for, most will be pretty happy if you have some basic knowledge and can demonstrate professionalism. Notice how all large Chinese media orgs have international social media accounts. 

  • TOP TIPS from ASNE’s best practice guidelines for editors creating social news policies
  • 1. Traditional ethics rules still apply online.
    2. Assume everything you write online will become public.
    3. Use social media to engage with readers, but professionally.
    4. Independently authenticate anything found on a social networking site.
    5. Be transparent and admit when you’re wrong online.


Overview: Platform-native content is a controversial issue – Read this for a brilliant overview by Emily Bell (who you should be following on twitter). While platform-native content reaches wide and far, so far Facebook and Google are the winners and media orgs are the losers of critical advertising revenue. Plus publishers are somewhat at the mercy of Facebook algorithms. Then we have seen a narrowing of styles and formats which instead of using the creative space of the web, often look and feel very similar. For example, readable video can work, but often dumbs things down. Still, producing tailored content for specific platforms is not going away soon and can be useful and reach a wide audience! As things continue to evolve new opportunities are opening up too. Plus -platform-native content is your assignment this week – so you’ll have to at least try it once! 

  • We will show plenty of examples in class of all platforms, feeding you with inspiration for your team assignments.
  • In this week’s assignment, the class will act as one newsroom. Just as large newsrooms have separate and specific native platforms teams.
  • Each team must devise a production and distribution strategy suitable for their platform.
  • This assignment will challenge you to think strategically about how you use different social media to cover stories.
  • We shall cover the platforms and the assignment requirements for each team in the class. But you are welcome to choose your own partner. 


In this section of resources, you’ll find:

  • Style & content inspirations for 3 key global platforms – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram 
  • You’ll also find resources aimed at helping your team with your specific assignment, for example, Instagram Stories or Facebook Live etc. 
  • General resources for journalists using Social Media 



  • See how the BBC used Facebook live to give their audience a ‘behind the scenes’ experience



  • See the examples below from Vice & BBC

INSTAGRAM STORIES can be used effectively in a number of ways

  • For breaking news like this CNN example
  • cnncave-1024x399.png
  • For telling human stories (this example from NYT also acts a teaser for longer form content)
  • nytig-1024x336.png
  • They can be used for more creative/conceptual documentary photo essays
  • nytstory-1024x674.png
  • Post-mastectomy tattoos from the Guardian
  • This explainer style Washington Post story also teases into longer form content on their own site
  • washpoststory (1).png
  • Do you have illustration skills? Try a graphic story…VICEstory
  • Immerse the audience in your story by reporting directly from the scene as you go
  • aljharvey.png
  • You can also take the audience behind the scenes of a shoot
  • nyerinstas.png
  • Finally, Instagram stories are great for covering an event!
  • nytstyle.png
  • The Guardians Fake or Real is a regular feature – fun and informative!


  • Take a look at the Instagram feed takeovers on the following accounts
  • World press photo

  • Lens Culture
  • The New Yorker
  • British Journal of Photography (bjp1854)
  • Agence Vu
  • Look for series’ of images from the following feeds/ photographers on Instagram
  • National Geographic Creative
  • Patrick Brown
  • Paula Bronstein
  • TIME magazine
  • James Nachtwey
  • Glenna Gordon
  • David Guttenfelder
  • The New York Times
  • Newsha Tavakolian
  • Ed Kashi
  • Lynsey Addario


  • Take a look at the work of
  • Humans of New York
  • Screen Shot 2018-12-08 at 18.40.10.png
  • Tim Franco
  • Screen Shot 2018-12-08 at 18.32.30.png
  • Where Love is Illegal
  • Screen Shot 2018-12-08 at 18.30.00.png
  • Martin Schoeller

  • Screen Shot 2018-12-08 at 18.27.34.png
  • Ruddy Roye
  • Screen Shot 2018-12-08 at 18.18.43.png
  • Sean Gallagher
  • Screen Shot 2018-12-08 at 18.18.18.png
  • Adam Ferguson
  • Screen Shot 2018-12-08 at 18.19.45.png
  • Michal Chelbin
  • Screen Shot 2018-12-08 at 18.32.03.png
  • Anne-Sophie Guillet
  • Screen Shot 2018-12-08 at 18.29.35.png
  • Patrick Brown
  • Screen Shot 2018-12-08 at 18.16.41.png

TWITTER SERIES – You can choose to post a series of separate tweets or link them in a single thread like this example from @BBCNewsGraphics Tweet  (Also, shown partially below) Notice how they use 1/ & 2/ to order the tweets. 



  • See the square / vertical video section below


Assignment Reading / Resources







  • The inspirations in the inspiration section speak for themselves
  • Be sure to take care of your captions and keep a cohesive style



  • See the square / vertical video section below. (Ps, If you want to try a Live Video you are welcome so long as it’s Square or Vertical)




  • (Examples are given in class and by Rongfei)


The notes below are unsorted