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6 Metrics Journalists Need To Know For Data Storytelling

Ahmad Munawar

Sep 29, 2021

Journalists are always on the lookout for a good story. They are the modern-day storytellers, seeking factual information and relaying them to the public. The public counts on them to deliver the news on various aspects of our lives and the events that affect our decisions. The public consumes this information as part of our ongoing need for knowledge to facilitate our action moving forward. 

Recounting stories like the original storyteller Homer, journalists have the ability to weave facts and firsthand experiences into a narrative that informs the audience to make wise decisions. In the era of fake news and an audience that demands participatory experience, there is a greater impetus in storytelling to provide integrity with facts and data,

Table of Contents

The Art of Data Storytelling in a Social Media World

Facts need to be the crux of storytelling to maintain integrity and build trust with an audience. With the right facts, there is a salience developed between journalists and their audience, creating a greater connection when they search for information in the future. 

A compelling narrative is one that is able to persuade the reader. This appeal will boost the credibility of the publisher as well as attract more readership. Through their storytelling, journalists have honed their craft to inform with a mix of moral objectivity, emotional connection and factual reportage.

With social media being almost intrinsic in our daily lives, there is an infinite amount of stories and storytelling material available for journalists to tap into. From finding creative news beats to breaking news stories, there is always something for a journalist to write about and discover new angles.

Image of data connections and social networks.

Journalists need statistical analysis and metrics that reflect the sentiments of the public on social media. Surveys and interviews are exceptional forms of qualitative data but the nature of newsjacking and breaking news cannot afford the time to carry out these forms of data analysis. 

This is why journalists require the real-time power of social media data and analytics. Gathering information, getting a sense of public opinion and tracking the progress of a story are integral in journalism in this new world of viral videos, shock content and shorter attention spans.

6 Social Media Metrics For Journalists to Tell Stories

News organisations know the power of social media these days and understand the growing complexities of public opinion in the online space. Every organisation now has an online presence with corresponding social media presence — be it on Facebook, or Twitter. Editors and journalists are publishing their stories faster than ever before. At the same time, journalists are also multitasking to get on the latest event breaking at another location. 

So how do journalists stay on top of their beats? What can they do to gain that extra edge in their storytelling to the audience? These are the six metrics journalists can use to accentuate their stories.

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Engagement Rate

Journalists always seek to understand their audience and how they are interacting with their stories. Before the advent of social media, news teams did not have a direct way of studying how their content is performing. However, audiences these days require a participatory experience with online content. Through social media, this is possible and news teams can gauge through its engagement rate

Engagement rate highlights the interactivity between the journalist’s stories and their audience. The number of likes, shares, and comments is a reflection of how much a piece of content is resonating with an audience. By looking through the posts with the highest engagement rates, a journalist can sieve through the comments to identify audience sentiment and common topical interests being discussed.

These insights provides the news teams with valuable opinions from the audience they are engaging with. This online sensing can also be viewed as a new form of gathering public feedback. By using a social media analytics tool, journalists can quickly get a broad overview of public sentiment on a particular topic and identify the factors affecting public opinion.

Keyword Clouds for Beats

Journalists writing for print and online news are typically assigned to a news beat where they are expected to cover a wide array of related topics and events. They have to constantly find news stories or angles to write about. Keyword clouds are extremely handy in finding what the audience are discussing and designing a story to address it.

Keyword cloud on public transport in Australia

Take for example, a journalist who is assigned to cover news stories about transportation, there is a wide scope of topics to be covered. From private hire vehicles to road taxation hikes to a public transport mishap, all of these topics can happen at the same time. With a keyword cloud, the most discussed topics as well as buzzwords found in social media will appear more prominently and this may give an extra boost to journalists in finding their next news story. With keyword clouds, a journalist can react faster to cover the day's events and emergencies.

Keyword clouds can also identify the top entities that are associated with a specific topic or event. To follow on the topic above, if there was a specific event such as a public transport mishap, the social media data can uncover the various entities which are mentioned the most. In this case, the officials who have made an announcement or the most vocal critic commenting on the catastrophe.


It is undeniable that social influencers are playing a prominent role these days because of how embedded social media is in everyday life. The younger generations of Gen Zs and Millennials are living in the hyperconscious state of social media and influencers play an imperative role in deciding what is particularly interesting to talk about.

In this social media landscape, journalists are increasingly becoming influencers themselves too. Using platforms like Twitter, they can reach a wider audience and raise awareness on an issue as much as other influencers online. For every topic out there, there are particular influencers who populate that space and their opinions are highly sought after by their followers. For example, a sports writer will definitely benefit from gathering insights from sports personalities on social media. These high-profile influencers receive massive engagement rates with their followers and writers can get a new angle from this highly-opinionated pool of commenters.

Knowing what makes these influencers tick and the topics that their audiences are listening to may help journalists refine their stories while at the same time, locate the subject matter experts in the field they are covering. Finding these influencers and analysing their content can raise awareness on the various issues at hand. Meanwhile, they can also analyse their own profiles to see the key demographics of their audience based on the social media data.

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Audience demographics are vital to news outlets. With print publications suffering from a decline of readership and more investments being pumped into developing their online presence, news outlets need to quickly grasp the demographics of their readership to fully understand their audience. 

Using an analytics tool to study social media data, news teams can learn which demographics are tuning in and interacting with their articles. Increasingly, readers are switching to social media to receive their news alerts as well as scouring for more information on a certain topic than ever before. 

For example, a quick search on Meltwater's platform revealed that almost 77% of the gaming audience in the Philippines were male. This insight is gained through social media data discussing the topic of gaming in the country. On the other hand, a scan of the influencer landscape showed that a predominantly female lineup led the social media conversations. Using a combination of these insights, journalists can connect better with the target audiences who are reading their stories.

Furthermore, a study on the Australian media landscape also showed that Australians are consuming news primarily online or through watching television while print has been declining in the past five years. With such high readership online, gaining access to audience demographics such as socioeconomic status, online habits, and personality profiles, is another tool in the journalist’s arsenal in developing stories which are more relevant to their focus groups.

A breaking story is always a boon for journalists. With the help of Twitter and the analytics within the social media platform, journalists can report almost instantaneously on an event. Using the various metrics above such as volume trends, engagement rate and keyword clouds, journalists can extrapolate a range of information which reflect the conversational beat of their audience online.

For example, when there was an earthquake in the state of Victoria, Australia, many turned to social media to express their concern. Tweets of wreckage in the Melbourne metropolitan area suddenly became the hot topic of the day even before news outlets could start reporting them. In this instance, like many other events in our lives, social media has become part of what a news report entails. Undoubtedly, part of a journalist’s scope should include following a news lead by getting on social media and finding out what is trending. 

Social Echo

The Social Echo metric highlights the impact of news content on social channels based on the total number of interactions such as shares, reactions, and comments. Social Echo also highlights to news outlets the type of content that is most shared on social media. News teams can more tangibly identify the content with the best audience engagement via social channels. On an operational level, news editors can also use this helpful indicator to focus on stories and trends which have intrinsic value based on the rate of engagement with the audience and readers.

For example, in the week between 20-26 September, Singapore’s main broadsheet The Straits Times published an article about Panasonic’s retrenchment of its workers. This article was the news outlet’s most shared story with more than 10,300 interactions across social channels. This article resonated with Singapore readers as it highlighted the plight of the workers as well as the jobs market. Using this insight, the editorial team can further analyse the way their audience consume their content as well as hone their strategies moving forward.

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The Context of Social Media in Journalism

Social media is part of news now and many online articles refer to social media for stories. These stories usually highlight the vanity metrics of likes and shares. To gain a deeper contextual understanding of what people are talking about in relation to the news beats, journalists need to quickly analyse and evaluate the currency of these trending topics. 

With social media data easily available on various platforms, editorial teams can gain interesting insights into the minds of the audience they are writing to. Being contextually synchronised with the audience will deliver better articles which are attuned to the reader. With social analytics, influencer reporting and audience demographics, journalists and editors can make better informed decisions in finding the niche beats which garner more readership numbers.

In a sphere of untethered public opinions, journalists need tools which can help pull in all these insights from various channels on social media. With the threat of fake news and misinformation, news outlets need the veracity of their information as well as the integrity of fact-checking procedures. In the realm of political reportage, journalists have near impossible deadlines to meet when a scandal breaks on social media. 

With these social media metrics (and many more others), journalists can add that extra layer in their stories and breaking news. If you ever wondered how you can make your article more impactful with data journalism and insights, do fill the form below and Meltwater can help you gain that extra edge in delivering audience-centric articles.