The Basics of Using Twitter to Find a Source

Journalists who successfully use Twitter to find sources know that doing a quick Twitter search or sending out a tweet into the ether doesn’t always lead to great results.  But if you use good tactics, Twitter can be a valuable research tool.

Here’s how to make your source finding efforts on Twitter more efficient and effective.

Don’t Just Tweet It, Amplify It

  • Don’t just tweet out your source needs once. Most of your followers aren’t going to see a single tweet.  It’s a fine line, but try to tweet several times without crossing into annoying territory (you don’t want to get muted).
  • Try multiple hashtags for different tweets, to broaden your visibility across multiple channels.
  • If you have a strong following, ask your followers to retweet it. Ask other people who have a relevant audience or network to tweet it as well.  Think about other friendly journalists, past sources, industry contacts and friends. Just make sure to return the favor for them later.
  • Enlist the help of Source Sleuth, URGharo, or similar twitter accounts that tweet out journalist requests and have a good following.


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Refine Your Search Tactics

  • Use Twitter’s advanced search for better results.  Be sure to refine your search by location, and date of tweet to eliminate inactive users.  Throw in some negative keywords as well. For example, if you are searching for an expert on bacon, you can avoid all the Kevin Bacon chatter by using “Kevin” as a negative keyword. This narrows your search and saves you time.
  • When you find a possible source do a quick vetting.  Is the twitter account up to date? Do they seem human or robotic? Do they seem to be an expert in their field or demonstrate that they know what they’re talking about? Doing a quick inspection before you reach out to them and later find out they aren’t a legit source will save you a lot of time.
  • Use hashtags to amplify your search, but first do a little research on relevant hashtags. Resources like maintain large databases of popular hashtags on Twitter, allowing you to find the most visible hashtags that are relevant to your search.  For example, instead of using the #business hashtag in your search, you might consider the alternatives suggested by the site, such as #networking, #consumer or #marketing.

Search a Related Article and See Who Tweeted It

One way to find sources who are interested in a particular topic is to see who tweeted an article.

  • First, start with a Google news search for a topic that your sources might be interested in. Once you see the search results, find a well-known site or publication and get the URL of the article.
  • Then go to, use the “links” section and put in the URL of the article you chose. Then you’ll see all the people who tweeted it.
  • You also have the option to see the people who tweeted the link who are considered Influential/Highly Influential.

For Example: Say you are looking for sources interested in mobility workplace trends. You do a google news search on “workplace mobility”, and an IT Pro article pops up about Microsoft’s call for businesses to embrace mobility:


Next, you plug that URL link into Topsy.  Topsy then gives you a snapshot of people on Twitter who are tweeting the respective article and are interested in the topic:


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Search Twitter profiles for keywords using Followerwonk

Another way to find sources is to use a tool called Followerwonk allows you to search Twitter profiles for keywords. So if you were looking to talk to a CTO in Chicago, it allows you to quickly do that

Reaching Out Directly

People are often more accessible on Twitter. You may not be able to get someone on the phone or email quickly, but active Twitter users are often quick to respond to @replies.  If it doesn’t look like they are an active user, check their account for contact information or a full name and/or do a quick Google search so you can reach out on another channel.

Have more questions about finding sources on Twitter?  Tweet us @sourcesleuth!

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