Searching News and Social Media

Top 3 Challenges

 Top 3 Challenges News and social media are valuable sources of intelligence about people, companies, trends, and more. For strategic planning, risk management, litigation support, or other times when you need to know more before taking action, it's worth adding this step into your research process.

As with any type of online research, though, news and social media can be challenging. It takes time to cover your topic broadly and deeply, and there's often a lot more involved than just a few quick searches. You need to know how to work with the challenges in order to get the answers to your questionswithout spending too much time.

Let's first talk about some of the challenges of news and social media.

It's hard to find

There isn't one database that works well for news, and not everything is available on the open web. For social media, you'll come across lots of products with lots of promises, but one source won't cover everything. Other issues that make online news and social media hard to find are paywalls, date restrictions, and private profiles.

Too much information

Especially with big stories and breaking news, you'll be inundated with search results. Add in all the misinformation, disinformation, and deep fakes, and it's hard to tell what's relevant. For social media, the information stream can quickly turn into a firehose, and with so many platforms, checking them all can be tedious.

Too little information

With some topics, you may find little to no news or social media content. Perhaps your subjects' lives aren't covered in the news, and not everyone's on social media. Many companies prefer privacy over telling all, and emerging industries and niche topics often translate into fewer search results.

Now that we've covered some of the top challenges of searching news and social media, what can you do to get the best results?

  • Budget plenty of time to find the right sources, construct the right searches, and sift through the results. It usually takes more time to prepare for the search and process results than it does to actually run your searches.

  •  Learn how to evaluate your sources and everything you find. Yes, that also takes time, but you can streamline the process by making sure you're asking the right questions. Have a system or some checklists, but know when to veer off the usual path.

  • Save some time with aggregators, sources that collect news from lots of different places. Many specialize in global or local content, and they often include older news. Know their limitations and their special features, and make sure that you're aware of what's included and what's not.

  • Take advantage of your library's free news databases. All you need is a library card, and you can usually access it from anywhere. Check out the help pages or ask a librarian to find out how they work and to see if they can be used for your business.

  • Identify the most likely social platforms, because you can't do it all. Some cater to specific audiences or topics, and each has its own "rules of the road." If you're not experienced with a particular platform, consider bringing in an expert.

  • For the best coverage and for the most advanced search, try Google for social media first. Then search the social platforms directly. Again, you need to take a multi-pronged approach to your sources and strategy. You can also try tools like Hootsuite or TweetDeck to control the information flow.

  • Manage your and your clients' expectations. Make sure everyone's aware of the limitations of searching news and social media, including coverage, budget, and timeframe. This is probably the most important tip because you don't want to make promises you can't keep.

Online news and social media searches have their limitations. For better results in less time, make sure you know the challenges and how to work around them.

If you'd like to learn more about news searching, check out my online course, How to Search Online News for Due Diligence and Background Investigations.