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Twitter Yourself

Twitters mentions folder captures any use of your @username and delivers accordingly. This is obviously very convenient, but quite a basic feature.

Twitter’s powerful search feature takes this quite a few steps further and allows you to manipulate all the data across Twitter in a variety of ways.

You’ll find it at search.twitter.com, and a version of this tool comes built into nearly all Twitter clients. The advanced search is really where you want to be, but by learning some of the functionality and search operators you can quickly perform complex searches any time a Twitter search box appears.

For example, while the mentions folder kindly informs us of any reference to our username on Twitter, it doesn’t help if somebody is talking about our real name, or our brand, or even a competitor. That’s valuable information, and with a few clicks you can set up a search function that will keep track of this for you every minute of every day of the week.

How To Use Twitter Search

1. First, visit search.twitter.com, or bring up the search window in your favourite Twitter client.

2. In the input box, enter the following:

"firstname lastname" OR "company name" OR "competitor name"

For example, it could be:

"Larry Page" OR "Google" OR "Bing"

3. Click on the submit button, and away you go.

Now, it’s worth noting that the example query I used above is going to generate tens of thousands of results, and update pretty much constantly, as it’s Google. Your mileage will vary considerably. If you’re a small business or very new to the world of social media you may not see any initial results at all.

(Tip: You can test to see if the search is working by referencing the parameters in one of your own tweets, or ask a colleague to do this.)

The use of the search operator OR in this query means that Twitter will only return tweets that contain one or more of these terms, but they don’t all have to be there. If you want to see results where all of these pieces of information was contained in one tweet, simply remove all uses of OR. Search words placed in quotes mean that the exact phrase must be in the tweet and not just the words (perhaps mentioned separately). So, “Larry Page” is different to Larry Page.

You can also check on tweets that are being sent to people by searching for to:username (don’t use the @ symbol – for example, to:google), remove uses of a given word (i.e., steve -jobs) and even return positive or negative tweets by including emoticons.

Find the complete list of Twitter’s search operators here.

Bookmark this page. Play with it, memorise it, and learn from it. Most Twitter clients allow to run multiple search windows, so the opportunities are limitless. And the results will be very different to the information you find on Google, or any other search engine, as it’s far more immediate and emotive. You can reach out to disgruntled customers (your own and competitors), closely monitor the public reaction to product news and promotions, and a million other things.

It’s powerful stuff. Seize the advantage.

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