As a marketing tool Twitter gets much more interesting and useful when you can filter out 99 percent of the junk that doesn’t apply to your objectives and focus on the stuff that matters.
The basic search.twitter.com functionality is fine for finding out what’s being said about your search terms. The advanced search function offers more ways to slice and dice the stream, but still leaves some room for improvement as it only searches what’s being said and where. From a communication standpoint, who is saying it might be more useful.
1) Target by occupation
Let’s say you have a business that sells an awesome service to attorneys. A simple search on Twitter will turn up thousands of mentions of the word attorney, but many of them will be from people talking about this or that attorney or the need to hire or not hire one. That’s probably not very helpful.
However, if you cruise over to Google and use a handful of operators from the Google shortcut library you can create a search that plows through Twitter and gives you a list of all the users that have the word “attorney” in their title (username and/or real name). Click on this search phrase—intitle:”attorney * on twitter” site:twitter.com—and what you’ll find is a handy list of attorneys of one sort or another on Twitter.
Without getting too technical, this search basically asks Google to look in the title of profile pages on Twitter. The * tells Google to find the words “attorney on Twitter” without regard to order or other words. And “on Twitter” appears in the title of every profile page, so we need that term to make sure we search profile pages only.
2) Target by bio
In some cases, searching through the optional biographical information can be more helpful than combing the username or real name fields. Maybe you’re looking for a specific term or some of the folks you are targeting only reference their profession in their bio.
Google search to the rescue again. This time add the intext attribute, the word bio and our key phrase to search bios. For example, a search for Web designers would look like this: intext:”bio * web designer” site:twitter.com. When you look at this list, you might notice that none of the people on the list would have been found by searching in their title, as in the first tip, for Web designer. Try it both ways to test for best results.
3) Target by location
Location search by itself is simple using the Twitter advanced search tool. If you want a list of people in Austin you would use this: near: “Austin, TX” within:25mi and Twitter would use the location field to show you Austin tweeters.
But if you wanted to target salons in Austin or all of Texas, it’s back to Google to mix and match: intitle:”salon * on twitter” OR intext:”bio * salon” intext:”location * TX” site:twitter.com. We search the title, bio and location to get a targeted list of salons in Texas on Twitter. Note the OR function for multiple queries.
4) New signups
Another handy thing about using any of the searches above is that you can also use them to create Google Alerts. By going to Google and putting in your search string as described above you’ll get everything they have now, but by setting up an alert you’ll get an e-mail or RSS alert when a new attorney (or whatever you’re targeting) joins Twitter.
5) Keep up on your industry
Some of the best information shared on Twitter comes in the form of shared links. I love to use a filtered Twitter search to further wade through research on entire industries, but reduce the noise by only following tweets that have links in them and eliminating retweets that are essentially duplicates—“small business” OR entrepreneur OR “start up” filter:links—this gets that job done and produces an RSS feed if I want to send it to Google Reader. Don’t forget to put quotation marks around phrases of two or more words, or you will get every mention of small and business.
6) Competitive eavesdropping
Lots of people set up basic searches to listen to what their competitors are saying and what others are saying about the competition. I suggest you create a search that includes the conversations they are having and not just what people are saying about them. For example, if you’re competitor is Comcast, you’d search from:comcastcares OR to:comcastcares.
7) Trending photos
If you want to find an image related to a hot trend, or anything for that matter, simply put the search phase you have in mind followed by one of the better-known Twitter image uploading services such as TwitPic, and you’ll get nothing but images. So, your search on Twitter might be olympics twitpic OR ow.ly. (You can add more photo sharing sites to expand the search.)
Twitter just got way more interesting didn’t it?
This article originally appeared on American Express OPEN Forum.