How to use social media to stay informed

Social media can be a brilliant place to stay up to date on issues you care about – but it can also be one huge distraction if you don’t approach it wisely. That social media ‘noise’ that is often referred to when we’re devising strategies to reach people also applies when you’re a consumer of content. How do you extract the stuff you want to see and avoid the rest?

As a PR agency, we make it our business to look at the tools and tricks that each platform offers to help you streamline your social intake. And make sure you’re making the most efficient use of your time.

Twitter Lists

Lists are a simple way to gather the feeds of different Twitter accounts under one heading. A bit of a pain to curate, but once you’ve started using them there will be no going back.

Curate lists based on different types of accounts – for example clients, competitors and influencers or based on the type of topic you need to keep abreast of. They’re also useful if you’re attending an event and want to capture all the people tweeting about it in one place.

Lists help to save you time – once you’ve set them up, simply dip in to that list once a day to stop you from having to scroll through your feed to pick out relevant tweets.

The great thing about lists is that you don’t have to be following the people you add to your list. This makes them a great way to see what competitors are saying without having to follow them. You can also follow other people’s lists, so spend some time searching for lists curated by influential accounts in your field.

Twitter Topics

One of Twitter’s newest additions, Topics give you the chance to follow curated lists covering 300 areas (and counting). At the moment, these fall under broad categories, such as entertainment, sports and hobbies, but Twitter says it is adding to the list all the time.

Following a Topic means that you’ll be shown relevant tweets about that subject without having to follow the account. Twitter scans content and shows you the best matches based on the credibility of the account and how well the content is performing. So theoretically, it should be a great way to be served more relevant content without having to search for it.

Tweets from Topics you follow appear in your timeline, with an icon and the name of the topic shown at the top to indicate why you’re being shown that content. There are various ways to follow Topics from your account – use Twitter’s guide to following and unfollowing topics to get started.

Saved hashtags

As LinkedIn and Instagram are both platforms that encourage the use of hashtags on posts, following saved hashtags is a logical way to keep informed on these channels.

This method can be particularly useful if you’re interested in niche issues. If there’s a keyword to sum up the issue then it’s likely to be used as a hashtag on these channels, and following the hashtag gives you an efficient way to keep an eye on what’s being posted on that topic.

Groups

With so many professional groups on both Facebook and LinkedIn, carefully selecting a few that are relevant to your industry is one of the best ways to keep informed.

Not only does this give you the chance to stay in touch with the latest information people are sharing, it also helps you to understand what questions, concerns and issues people in your industry are facing. Even if you don’t post, simply reading what others are discussing gives you a touch point on what’s happening in your line of work.

If you’re researching a new area, posting in groups allows you to go one step further and ask others for their input. This means that you can learn from their experience, request information from experts and make contacts.

Instagram’s Explore tab

If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of the big hits on Instagram, dive into the Explore tab a few times a day and follow the tabs of interest. Instagram will serve the most popular content that it thinks is most relevant to your account, so a quick scroll a few times a day is worthwhile to see what’s trending.

Trending topics

Another useful way to see what’s popular in the moment, check out Twitter’s trends tab to see what’s trending. Want to be the first person in the office to hear about breaking news in your industry? This can be a shortcut to finding out!

Choose whether to see general trends across Twitter, or those based on your account by clicking on the settings tab on the trends bar and ticking the ‘trends for you’ box. If you’re following all the right accounts for your industry, then the trends Twitter serves you should be more tailored to what you’re interested in.

Hootsuite streams

Sign up for a free Hootsuite account, and one of the great advantages is that you can set up streams for your Twitter account. You can create streams based on keywords or search queries, so this is a quick way to listen in to what’s being said on certain issues. They are also very quick to set up and delete, making them useful for short-term research as well as longer-term subjects you want to know about.

Google Alerts

Not strictly social media, but worth including as one of the fastest and simplest tools for following news on a given subject. Simply head to Google Alerts, type in the keyword you’re interested in and Google will send you regular email alerts of news on that subject. Easy!

How do you keep in touch with the issues you care about on social media? Is there something we’ve missed? Connect with us on Twitter @Ambitiouspr to let us know!

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