6 Twitter search strategies for Twitter lurkers

TwitterSearchStrategies2The previous article in this series listed reasons for using Twitter even if you don’t want to tweet. Here are some search techniques to help you get the most out of being a Twitter lurker.

  1. Go beyond your home stream. The Twitter home page, like a Facebook feed, shows tweets from the people you follow. Use Twitter Search to explore the wider world of tweets from people you don’t follow.
  1. It’s not all about hashtags. Twitter’s search feature is a straight-text search, not a controlled vocabulary. You don’t have to limit yourself to searching for #hashtags or @usernames unless it’s really helpful to narrow your search that way. Searching on #google will only return results where #google occurs as a hashtag complete with the # sign (used like a subject keyword). Searching for @google will only return results where @google occurs as a username complete with the @ sign (used to refer to or to address the Google company as a Twitter user). Searching for google will return results containing #google, @google or just google with no leading symbol.
  1. Cast a wide net at first. Start a Twitter search by using general keywords (not hashtags) that are likely to show up in the tweets you want. Try several variants connected with the boolean OR. Narrow the results by date or location if those factors are helpful in identifying your topic. Once you find a few relevant results, identify other helpful keywords or hashtags and refine your search.
  1. Most hashtags aren’t standardized. With a few exceptions, most hashtags emerge through the folk process and have no standardization. Sometimes a community eventually settles on one hashtag for an enduring topic, but for breaking news there might be many different hashtags in use. For an effective search, try searching on multiple hashtags at once or just search on keywords without the # symbol.
  1. Search on hashtag variants. Even official hashtags have variants because people make mistakes and the mistakes get propagated (for example, #TXLA2014 instead of #TXLA14 for the Texas Library Association 2014 Annual Conference). If you want the widest possible set of results, search on both official and unofficial hashtags.
  1. Search on usernames. If you know the Twitter username of a person or organization, searching on the username complete with the @ sign gets you a stream of tweets that mention or address that user, including bits of public Twitter conversations.

The next article in this series will cover a few tools that can improve your Twitter lurking experience.

Helpful references:

Using Advanced Search from the Twitter Help Center

How to Power Up Your Twitter Search Techniques from TwitterPowerSystem.com

6 Quick Tips to Search Twitter Like an Expert from HubSpot.com



Judy is a technology consultant for public libraries. She blogs at ElephantInTheLibrary.com.

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