Founder of Help Me Investigate. I'm a visiting professor at City University London's School of Journalism, and run an MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University. I publish the Online Journalism Blog, and am the co-author of the Online Journalism Handbook and Magazine Editing (3rd edition). I have a particular interest in Freedom of Information and data journalism.
Benefits paid to prisoners have declined by 96 per cent since 2007 – but almost £21m is still missing because only half the money has been recovered to the Department for Work and Pensions, an investigation by Help Me Investigate has revealed.
Try a range of terms: ‘welfare’ is normally used by those in official positions (or ‘social security’ in the US); ‘housing’ is a more specific term, as is ‘homeless’ or ‘homelessness’, ‘poverty’ and even ‘social’ (as in ‘social inclusion’).
You might want to look for users who mention an interest in specific issues like ‘bedroom tax’ or ‘workfare’, too, or organisations like Atos, A4e, and DWP.
Twellow allows you to narrow down to the United Kingdom, and particular cities, which helps exclude US results, but there doesn’t appear to be a way to use keywords and location together.
There are categories but these are very US-centric – so, no welfare or benefits, and the categories for ‘low cost housing’ and ‘affordable housing‘ bring up too many irrelevant results.
If you find a more effective directory please let us know!
3. Find related lists
It’s likely that someone else has already created a Twitter list covering the same or a related area. One way to find these is to look at the users you’ve already found and see what lists they’ve been added to.
You can find these by going to the Twitter user’s profile page and clicking on Lists to the left and then selecting Member of in the middle. The resulting URL should look like this:
You can also try to search Twitter lists. However, a number of tools that used to allow you to search these are no longer operating, so you’ll have to resort to some clever use of Google.
Try the following search:
…and replace YOURKEYWORD with what you’re looking for (note that there is no space after the colon).
For example, with the keyword welfare it would look like this:
Sadly that only produces one result, because the list has to be called ‘welfare’ exactly – so this list wouldn’t match the search.
You can try omitting the “lists” part and using wildcards (asterisks) around your key term instead:
Or try broadening the search to something like this (replacing the phrase with your own):
site:twitter.com/*/lists/ "bedroom tax"
This will bring back any list pages where one of the tweets mentions that term. Obviously this depends on what people are tweeting about at that moment in time.
4. Search discussions and hashtags
As you start to follow people in your field, you’ll come across some terms and hashtags repeatedly. In welfare for example people will be talking about the bedroom tax, welfare reform, universal credit, housing, benefits, and other issues.
You can also use a tool like Hashtagify.me to find hashtags related to ones you already know.
5. Following followers
Finally, look at the people you’ve already found and who they’re following and listing.
When you’re logged in to the Twitter website it normally shows a box on each profile page showing ‘similar accounts’, but clicking on ‘Following’ and ‘Followers’ will give you more suggestions – or you can just add those words to the Twitter account URL: a list of accounts that Patrick Butler is following can be found at https://twitter.com/patrickjbutler/following, for example
Do you have any other tips on finding relevant Twitter accounts to follow? Please let us know in the comments on @hmiwelfare