Published On: December 21st, 2020

Data-driven Journalism for Social Media: How to Tweak Your Workflow

For a long time, social media was merely an afterthought in the daily routine of data journalists. Why worry about promoting a story and making it more accessible when you can scrape websites and build sophisticated charts all day? A project launched by the European Data Journalism Network has been working on changing that status and mindset. DW Data is a part of the initiative, and our Eva Lopez — a data journalist and innovation manager — frequently shares what she and her team have learned. These are the latest insights. The post was originally published on DW Innovation blog.

This year, we, the data team, mostly focused on tweaking our workflows to integrate social media approaches into all our stories. That’s right: all of them. Here’s what helped us in the process:

Working in a big media organization comes with drawbacks and perks: Big organizations (like DW) can be rather slow, but they also offer a huge range of skills. So before kicking off the production process, we invited colleagues from various fields to a virtual workshop: Social media editors, designers and motion designers, and — of course — a number of journalists came together to brainstorm data-driven formats for different platforms.

Bringing together all kinds of stakeholders was key to our concept — and paid off. By the end of the workshop, the participants had compiled a list of diverse format ideas that we still draw on today. But what’s more, the workshop helped establish an alliance between all the colleagues we need on board to produce and publish new formats on social media. We now know what designers need to illustrate story ideas, what kind of elements work in a video storyboard, which topics Instagram audiences are interested in, and a lot more.

To give social media a more central role in our daily work, we also adjusted some of our workflows. Here are two simple tweaks that still go a long way for us:

  • We established the role of social media ambassador within our data team (hi, Kira!). Her job is a permanent reminder to keep social media options in mind from the beginning and to build a good relationship with the social media managers of DW’s different platforms and channels.
  • We added social media planning to our internal pitch form. This form contains questions that help us decide how much time, if any, we want to invest into potential stories. Now, every pitch must include ideas for how and where the story can be presented on social media.

Now that the workflows are in place and we’ve connected with our colleagues — some even turned into data-aficionados –, creating data-driven post formats for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube has become as easy as pie (chart). Based on what we’ve learned from workshops and first experiments, we’ve developed four basic approaches to better convey data-driven stories on social media:

  • the teaser chart
  • the chart-driven explainer
  • the presenter-driven explainer
  • the data-supported explainer

Detailed info on these post types coming soon!

We’ll leave you with four more insights for better workflows for data-driven journalism on social media:

  • Working on custom social media pieces is not trivial. It requires time, communication and resources. It’s important to plan accordingly.
  • Every platform and social media community is different. By tapping into analytics and creating tailor-made DDJ content, we were able to reach more people than usual.
  • Instagram stories are a specifically great tool: They’re versatile, interactive and can be done on a relatively low budget.
  • Long-form videos are by far the most elaborate/expensive formats — but in our case, the reach was terrific.

To learn more about data-driven journalism on social media, check out this post.