Searching for Tweets

After I finished the first draft of this column last night, I returned to a post from Jeremiah Owyang on how he uses Twitter and noticed my four examples mirrored his first four of seven. It’s understandable, as there are only so many reliable Twitter tools out there, and most avid tweeters have come to a consensus on what’s best. Jeremiah and I are also writing for different audiences, and the column lets me go deeper on how to use a few of these.

In any case, this will at least explain why you might have recently seen some of these tools written about before, but with any luck you’ll have some new appreciation for how to use them.

One last note: if you want to connect on Twitter, my username is davidberkowitz. You can find this and other social media profile links on the right-hand side.

And now, the column (originally in MediaPost), which continues in the extended entry:

Searching for Tweets

If someone tweets about you on Twitter and you don’t hear the sound, did the tweeter tweet at all?

This is one of the philosophical questions about Twitter that has a
practical answer. Fortunately, now there are many ways to listen to the
tweets.

I last covered Twitter six months ago,
focusing on how to use it for buzz monitoring. At the time, there
weren’t many options for searching Twitter, though by then Twitter came
out with its tracking tool for IM and mobile. Today, Twitter still offers little search functionality, but other options have emerged.

Why care about Twitter? It’s a playground for early adopters, and
for many technology enthusiasts, Twitter’s the best way to reach them.
Google Trends shows Twitter buzz is at an all-time high in search volume right now, and it’s not that far behind search volume for the movie "Iron Man"(though compared to Facebook and MySpace, they’re barely a blip).
Twitter is a communications channel for messages that are too brief and
perhaps fleeting to blog, but for whatever reason, they matter enough
for someone to write them. The more people tweet on Twitter, the more
search matters to find out what they’re saying.

Here are a few ways to go about it:

Tweet Scan: Tweet Scan
is what you’d expect from Twitter if it had a real search engine (you
can only search for users on Twitter.com). At Tweet Scan, you search
the content. If you’re doing some brainstorming for how to promote a
new kind of coffee and want to see what people are tweeting about,
entering "coffee" on Tweet Scan will bring up countless posts. People
happen to like mentioning they’re drinking coffee, whether it’s noting
they’re taking a coffee break, they’re going to their local coffee
shop, or they’re trying to stay awake. Coffee is one of those perfect
Twitter search terms, as it’s something people engage with a lot but
generally never wrote about publicly until this communications channel
came along.

While Tweet Scan’s useful, its limitations are too numerous to list.
You can only go back 10 pages of Tweets, which may or may not be a lot
depending on how hot the subject is. There aren’t any graphs, and all
analysis is manual. But it does cast a wide net, so if someone’s
talking about your query, Tweet Scan will find it.

Twhirl: Once you’re ready to do more than a
periodic search and you’re at least dabbling with using Twitter to
communicate, then it may be time to download Twhirl,
a desktop client built on Adobe AIR. While Twhirl can be a little slow
at times for those who need up-to-the-minute information, it
incorporates Tweet Scan’s search functionality so you don’t need to
keep going to the Web for it. There’s also an option to use Terraminds
Twitter search, but that hasn’t worked in months. The main benefit for
Twhirl is that if you’re talking as well as listening, Twhirl lets you
do it all in one place.

FriendFeed: If Twitter’s too mainstream for you, you can find a subset of tweets using FriendFeed,
an identity aggregator that lets you publish updates from a range of
social media sites including Twitter, Flickr, del.icio.us, digg,
StumbleUpon, your blog, and dozens of other sources. Then you can
befriend others and follow all their feeds. It’s similar to Plaxo Pulse,
but at Plaxo, you need to log in to search, and you can only search
your friends’ posts. You don’t even have to be registered with
FriendFeed to search it; just click the "everyone" tab on the homepage
and enter a search. While the majority of results in FriendFeed tend to
come from Twitter for any query, the other social media listings
provide a broader perspective of what’s being said and shared.

Quotably: If you’re looking to follow conversations and not just posts, turn to Quotably,
which semi-reliably groups conversations together. On Twitter, people
direct public responses to each other by writing "@username" and the
message, replacing "username" with a person’s Twitter name. Those
messages are public, so if the recipient is closely monitoring Twitter,
he or she will find it. Quotably compiles those threads. To see it in
action, enter a username such as comcastcares or hrblock,
as such marketers are actively engaging in conversations. You can also
run a search on any keyword, but you’re more likely to find a series of
one-off posts rather than discussion threads.

With these tools, it’s now possible to monitor the conversations. That’s the first step before deciding whether to join them.