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Free Social Media Tools For Journalists

According to a recent survey by Cision, published in November 2013, 96% of journalists use social media on a daily basis. The importance of social media is reflected in the fact 42% of journalists said they would not be able to carry out their work without social media. In this article we look at some of the best free social media tools that can support journalists and make their work more efficient.

Key Survey Findings - Journalists and Social Media

journalists social media

The Cision survey covered 589 journalists from the UK. Interestingly while Twitter dominates as the most used network (92% said they interact on Twitter on a daily basis) the network that saw the largest increase in use was LinkedIn. 

The role of journalists is changing. They have a role in finding and filtering content, curating, interviewing influencers, verifying stories, adding context and also adding content such as tweets or videos from eyewitnesses to news stories. This helps explain why a third of journalists in the survey spent over 2 hours a day on social media.

The survey found that journalists typically use social media in one of five ways as follows:

  • monitoring
  • sourcing
  • verifying
  • networking
  • publishing & promoting

The proliferation of social networks can be overwhelming for journalists. However, many of the social media tools used frequently by marketers can also be very helpful to journalists to manage their time efficiently. Below is a list of free social media tools that can be useful for journalists.

Sourcing and Discovery Tools

Social media is an important discovery layer for journalists. Often news will break first on social media. The tools below will help journalists search what is being said in a particular topic area, see the articles that are being most shared and the key influencers that they might want to monitor, reach out to and interview.


Topsy is a social search tool (recently acquired by Apple) which has archived all tweets since Twitter began in 2006, over 400 billion pieces of content. You can search for a particular topic to find all Tweets in a particular period. Topsy uses a ranking system that includes how often a piece of content is cited by others.

Topsy also provides a sentiment score and lists of influencers for that topic.

You can also filter by content types such as links, photos, videos, your top influencers or social trends in 10 languages.


BuzzSumo is similar to Topsy but it searches the most shared content across the four main social networks namely Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. You can search by topic and filter by type of content such as infographic, video or article. You can filter results by date such as the last 24 hours, last week, last month or last 6 months. You can also search for key influencers and filter by bloggers, influencers, companies, journalists and regular people.


Socialmention is a free social media search platform that aggregates user generated content into a single stream of information. Like Topsy and BuzzSumo you just search straight from the home page. You can filter by time period and source, see the sentiment, top keywords, top users and top hashtags. 

scoop it

There are many free content curation sites, one of the best free sites is is a topic centric content discovery and curation tool. You can undertake searches, curate content topics and receive content suggestions scooped by others.

In addition to free tools, there are many paid for social monitoring tools such as TalkWalker, which has a free trial, Mention, which has a free trial, Trackur and tools like InkyBee, which is a blogger outreach tool.

There are also paid for sites designed specifically for journalists such as Storyful, a social news agency. Storyful was acquired by News Corp in December 2013. There is also Geofeedia, which is a social discovery tool that supports journalists by searching for activity in specific locations. 

Social Media Publishing Tools


Hootsuite is probably the most used free social media management tool. You can set up 5 social media accounts on the free version and then post, schedule and review your activity. The review and analytics features are limited with the free version but it is very simple to schedule and manage your posts from within Hootsuite. I tend to use the Chrome plugin which allows me to easily share interesting content directly without leaving the page I am on.


Buffer is one of main alternatives to Hootsuite. Buffer operates slightly differently in that you can pre-schedule your posts to go out say 5 set times each day. As you come across interesting content you can use the browser plugin to share the content and it will go into your buffer to be posted at the next available free slot in your schedule. With Hootsuite you have to schedule a time for each post and hence it takes a little longer. I tend to use both Hootsuite and Buffer.

Hootsuite and Buffer both have free versions there are many other paid for publishing and management tools such as SproutSocial which is very popular. There is no longer a free version though there is a free trial.

google media tools

In October 2013 Google assembled and launched an extensive set of Google Media Tools in one place for journalists. One important Google tool for journalists is Google Authorship. This ties content to verified online Google+ profiles and helps build individual author authority, essential for all journalists. This also has an impact on search results as verified content from authors with greater authority will appear higher in search results alongside their picture. If you haven’t set up Google authorship yet create your Google+ account, make sure your Google+ name matches your byline, upload a photo as your Google+ profile picture, and make sure you list all sites you write for under the “Contribute to” tab in your Google+ profile.

Verifying and Validation Tools

In this article I have focused on useful social media sourcing, networking and management tools. However, there are a growing number of verification tools to help journalists. The Verification Junkie site  provides a list of such tools including Tineye ( Tineye is a reverse image search engine. You can upload an image to TinEye or provide an image URL to find out where it came from, how it is being used, and if modified versions of the image exist.

(Full Disclaimer - Whilst I don't own shares in any of the above companies at the moment, I am considering investing in Twitter, BuzzSumo and LinkedIn shortly.)

Join The Conversation

  • Sunday's picture
    Jan 20 Posted 3 years ago Sunday

    The free social media tools discussed here can also be used by Internet  marketers to source, edit, curate and shared valuable contents.

    Its important for the user to understand the best timing for the use of these tools.

    Its good having this post which helps us understand what best tools to work with for effective networking.

    I have left this comment in, which is the Internet marketing, social bookmarking and content syndicating website where this post was shared.

    Sunday - contributor

  • Avtar Ram Singh's picture
    Jan 20 Posted 3 years ago Avtar Ram Singh

    I don't see the problem in them taking breaking stories from social media. You can count on a good journalist to not report, or base a report on a single tweet from coming out of some place - but it's a great tool to monitor what's going on in the ground at a certain place. People at the scene tweet about what's happening and take pictures and journalists are often open about the fact that ABC tweeted "this" from the scene or something.

  • John Phanchalad's picture
    Jan 19 Posted 3 years ago John Phanchalad

    it's amazing to see that over 25% of a journalists day is spent in social media.  Makes you wonder how legitimate their sources are for stories if they are taking them straight from social media

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