Beyond CrowdTangle: Truly Understanding Your Audience

By Tim Wolff

Nearly every newsroom in America has attempted to use CrowdTangle in some capacity, but some have been caught unprepared by the news that CrowdTangle is ending support and will shut down the product. The good news is that many newsrooms had more valuable systems in place for understanding audience data.

An accurate and in-the-moment understanding of the topics and stories people are sharing and seeing on social media has enormous benefits for newsrooms, who are, after all, trying to report and create content about what interests the most people. Earlier this year, I wrote about how newsrooms were working to prepare for transparency legislation affecting social media, and how data could become available to newsrooms. Meta’s decision to close CrowdTangle shows that transparency has been uncomfortable for Facebook.

CrowdTangle was launched as an independent social monitoring tool, tracking which posts were getting the most traffic. Facebook bought it in 2016, then gave it for free to newsrooms under very specific conditions. Journalists log in using a personal Facebook account to access a depth of data culled from public Facebook Pages and Groups, Instagram accounts, and the most popular subreddits. But access was extremely limited, with most newsrooms only having a few people — who had to tell Facebook they were journalists — with access to CrowdTangle.

In other words, Facebook verified you as a journalist, then controlled the information it gave you.

It’s another reason newsrooms need to be careful not to put all their eggs into one basket. A reliance on data coming solely from one social media company could make it hard to know you are getting accurate data — and, as we now see, could end at any time the company finds it to be inconvenient.

What’s really trending on social media? What do audiences care about right now?

That’s one reason Futuri has always focused on a much broader range of data here at Futuri. With TopicPulse, the most advanced AI-driven social data tool, we track data from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and over 100,000 news publishers. Because we monitor all these different sources and publishers, our partners won’t be disrupted by one social company shutting something down.

We also include real-time analysis as part of the mix, helping monitor and manage the artificial intelligence that brings real-time, live demographic data and predictive analysis to thousands of stories every minute.

We believe in data, we believe in transparency, and we believe in constantly improving the best tools that help newsrooms spend less time unraveling the data behind trending stories so they can concentrate on serving their communities.

Here are our top pro tips to help your newsroom track social media for content:

  1. Have a broad scope of data sources. Not only Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter… all of them +.
  2. Choose information that can be widely accessed in your newsroom; if only one or two people have access, that’s a significant risk for you.
  3. Track more than just the socials for your brand and your competitors’ brands; after all, that’s only a tiny portion of the average consumer’s social media activity.
  4. Remember, it’s not a zero-sum game between you and the other TV, radio, and newspaper outlets in town. Social and digital platforms are virtually unlimited, and you have endless opportunities to grow your brand.
  5. Keep a healthy skepticism about any platform that reports on itself.
  6. Track trending news topics outside of your news team’s comfort zone. We tend to live in similar areas, follow similar social media, and only reflect a portion of our communities. Your content should reflect the entire community you’re covering, not only that portion for which your team may have an unconscious bias.
  7. Ask for (or demand) transparency from the technology you use whenever possible, just as we should be as transparent as possible with our news consumers.
  8. Ask your news team how much time they spend mining social media for news and tips. Then have them track it to get the actual number. Chances are, their time spent doing this is higher than it needs to be if they’re using the right technology.
  9. Look for tools that can save your news team time and get them the essential information they need. The right AI can be an incredible tool that delivers an immediate positive impact on your team and your news content.
  10. Take a look at what personal data your news team has had to share to get access to tech or social media data. Journalists are under fire as never before, and it’s a good idea to have a cybersecurity expert review the risks journalists have taken in exposing private information to tech and social media companies.
  11. Stay up to date on changes in social, AI, and media technology by following Futuri Media on LinkedInTwitter, or your platform of choice.
Tim Wolff has 20+ years of experience as a digital and broadcasting leader who’s led top-performing teams across the country at companies including Gannet, Belo, and Cox Media Group Ohio, which includes three daily newspapers, three radio stations, WHIO-TV, and more. Wolff, who holds a Master’s in Journalism from the University of Missouri, also makes a mean green chile stew.
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