Searching social media updates for news and information


A blog post that got thousands of pageviews in one day and was featured prominently on our homepage for hours began with a single tweet (right) from a South Florida woman who was wondering aloud to the cyberverse about the fate of a popular Greek restaurant.

I saw the tweet late Monday afternoon. As the site’s homepage editor for several years, I learned that readers are nuts about any restaurant news. Ouzo Blue, as it’s actually spelled, was one of those napkin-throwing and belly-dancing hotspots that I suspected would resonate.

Ouzo Blue

Entertainment at Ouzo Blue in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. (Taylor Jones / Palm Beach Post file photo)

I instant-messaged a link to the tweet to Post business reporter Allison Ross (an active and savvy social-media user in her own right).

Then I searched around for other Ouzo Blue tidbits in the social media world to give Allison a hand.

Here’s what I tried:

Searched Twitter for more tweets about Ouzo Blue, including misspellings. (I do Twitter searches so often that I have Twitter built in as one of my search engines in the Firefox search bar, below only Google.)

✓ You can also do an Advanced Twitter Search to further filter tweets, such as by location.

✓ Searched for “Ouzo Blue” on openbook, a site that lets you find public Facebook status updates even if you’re not logged on or have never used Facebook. Open Facebook Search is a similar site, one I mentioned in my last post. (Fair warning: Both sometimes suggest off-color search phrases; if this annoys you, you can also search “Posts by Everyone” right in Facebook if you’re logged in.)

Anyway, through Facebook searching I discovered two things: First, a woman (likely a former employee) had recently created a Facebook group called Ouzo Blue Owes Us Money. And another local woman had posted an update saying Ouzo Blue cancelled her event.

Screen shots of these two status updates are below:


I sent both of these to Allison, who was able to get an interview with the second woman and use it in her blog post.

✓ I did a regular Google search for “Ouzo Blue” and then selected “Updates” on Google’s left rail to narrow the search down to social media postings (this is a relatively new Google service). For the most part, it doesn’t appear that Google’s social-media “Updates” search is any different than simply searching Twitter and Facebook separately, but it was worth a try.

✓ Searched (unsuccessfully) for recent Ouzo Blue photos on TwiPho and TweetPhoto, two search engines for photo-sharing services. (I had tried this a few days earlier with Palm Beach International Airport, too, after reports of a power failure there.) Finding a picture that someone posts about a news event could net not only a photo to use, but possibly an interview.

✓ Though this didn’t apply in the Ouzo Blue case, you can also find people who are in a certain location at a certain time, thanks to the growing popularity of location-based social networks.



Foursquare, for instance, doesn’t let you directly see who’s checked in to a location, but many Foursquare users post their check-ins via Twitter. You can see them with a simple Twitter search. Here’s one of the searches I used the other day to try to find people who were at Palm Beach International Airport at the time of the power outage. I found and contacted three or four people (though only one got back to us, and too late).

The same concept works for the other well-known location-based social network, Gowalla. Here’s a search (which of course could be added to with specifics, as in this example) that I currently have saved as a bookmark, like the Foursquare Twitter search.

(Side note: I played around with simplifying some of this searching through Google Updates by using the “or” search parameter, but it didn’t seem to work well for me. Suggestions are welcome!)

The point of all this is not that Ouzo Blue’s closing is the news of the century (although they did have great melitzanosalata…) but that there are several social-media avenues available to search for information on a news story, to find people to interview and more.

How about you, readers? What would you add to this list of searching tools for social media updates? Any good tips, links or anecdotes out there?



Filed under Social media

7 responses to “Searching social media updates for news and information

  1. Pingback: Using social media for reporting « guylucas

  2. Pingback: Thanks for reading! Web Up the Newsroom’s top blog posts of 2010 | Web Up the Newsroom

  3. Thanks, Tiffini. Heidi (above) shared this throughout our newsroom. I didn’t realize there was a Twitter searchbar plugin for Firefox. I’ll be using it often. Also, thanks for introducing me to Openbook. Great tools!

  4. What a great post, Tiffini. Sharing with my newsroom and some other newsrooms that we’re working with to develop a robust social media strategy.

  5. Great tips! I’m sharing with my newsroom.

  6. Steve Buttry

    Thanks for this great post on social media search, Tiffini. In addition to searching Twitter for keywords (such as Ouzo, spelled different ways), check for the hashtags that come up in that search. That will help you identify the hashtags that are launching simultaneously. I blogged about the different hashtags being used in last year’s Fargo floods: I’ve also written several posts about using Twitter on breaking news:
    And Shane Snow and Vadim Lavrusik had a good post on how journalists can use Foursquare:

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