The essential guide to building your business through Twitter search

 twitter search

By Mark W. Schaefer

Many business professionals believe the Twitter search function is the most powerful tool for marketing insight ever created.

If you search Google, Bing or Yahoo, your results will be articles, videos, and websites. But if you search Twitter, the results are real-time conversations. And you can learn a lot from tapping into conversations!

Used effectively, Twitter search can be an essential tool for discovery and marketing research. And people are catching on — there are nearly 3 billion search queries performed on Twitter every day!

The basics of search are extremely easy to master. You can insert any name, phrase or hashtag in the search box at the top of the profile page and find some useful results.

But to really unlock the power of content on Twitter, it’s useful to know some advanced search operators. You can dramatically improve your search results by typing these directions directly into the search box.

Typing this: Show you tweets that:
lang:en Are only in the language “english”
funny movies Contains both “funny” and “movies.” This is the default operator.
“Steelers win” Contains the exact phrase “Steelers win”
man OR woman Contains either “man” or “woman” (or both).
Steelers-football Contains “Steelers” but not “football”
#Steelers Contains the hashtag “#Steelers
from:markwschaefer Were sent from person “markwschaefer”
to:markwschaefer Were sent to person “markwschaefer”
@markwschaefer Referencing person “markwschaefer”
“Chinese restaurant” near:”chicago” Contains the exact phrase “Chinese restaurant” and sent near “chicago”
near:NYC within:15mi were sent within 15 miles of “NYC”
“Chinese restaurant” since:2013-07-30 Contains phrase “Chinese restaurant and sent since date “2013-07-30? (year-month-day)
“Steelers” -attend : ) Contains phrase “Steelers” but not “attend” with a positive sentiment
flight : ( Contains the word “flight” with a negative sentiment
Flight ? Contains the word “flight” and tweet is asking a question.
hilarious filter:links Contains the word “hilarious” and linking to a URL

More Search Tips

  1. Keep your search as simple as possible. More complex searches miss more tweets.
  2. There is often more than one variation of popular hashtags (for example, #FollowFriday and #ff mean the same thing).
  3. Sometimes a search won’t show you older tweets, because there are too many results. Consider doing one or more searches using the before: and since: date operators.

It is also a good idea to save common searches to save time typing in this search every day. Twitter allows you to save searches, but I find it most helpful to turn to a third party platform because you can save a search and it shows up as a constantly-updating column of tweets in your stream. This can be a valuable source of leads, ideas, and insight as conversations unfold minute-by-minute.

There are limitless possibilities to the ways you can combine these advanced search operators to help your business. Think about using advanced search techniques to discover:

  • People in your town who need your product or service
  • Positive sentiment about restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues in a new city you are visiting.
  • Relevant new contacts who are already expressing interest in your product.
  • Conversations expressing a negative sentiment about your competition.
  • How people are using your product in new ways
  • People using phrases that might indicate political alignment, an interest in a cause, or expertise that can help you
  • Influential online personalities mentioning your product

A case study

Here is just a small illustration of the potential. I just did a simple search for people in my hometown (pop. 600,000) talking about pizza. There is at least one mention of pizza every 20 minutes, on average, and the rate is higher during lunch and dinner time. Remember, the beauty of Twitter is that tweets are public so the search results are not just for the people you are following. These are results from every single person meeting your search criteria.

Here is a sample of local, pizza-related tweets in my city over a four-hour period. If you owned a pizza place in this town, what business benefits could you derive by discovering people publishing the following tweets:

  • Craving pizza but I’m broke. Where can I get pizza for some change in my pocket??
  • I want a really unhealthy burger, but there’s also Cici’s macaroni pizza.
  • What Pizza Looks Like Around the World: Turkish pizza looks yummy! (included a link to a photo essay on pizza)
  • I just dropped the pizza face front on the floor. I REALLY suck.
  • Not a good night for cooking. Thinking pizza
  • My parents are coming for a visit. What’s the best pizza parlor in town?
  • I just got so excited making a Lean Cuisine pizza. I really worked my butt off in the kitchen! LOL
  • Can you cook pizza in a toaster?
  • Dear delivery pizza people: You are all pansies for not delivering pizza today. The roads are not that bad!
  • The weather is bad but Papa John’s is still delivering. Thank you Papa Johns!!

Together, we could probably brainstorm some interesting business tactics from following this stream of tweets on an hourly basis. Some of the business opportunities  might include:

  • Discovering the people in your delivery area who love pizza. This is your ideal Twitter community, right? Follow those people and put them on a List!
  • Tweeting back to create human, personal relationships with people in your city who talk about pizza
  • Providing helpful advice for people who have questions about buying pizza on a budget, cooking pizza in a toaster, or a recommendation for a family dinner (“Stop by and your beverages on are on us!”)
  • Competitor research – who has delivery cars on the move? Who is failing?
  • New product development – Macaroni pizza? Turkish pizza? What makes Lean Cuisine so good? Should we offer a diet or healthy version?
  • Create buzz – One person in your town ruined her pizza by dropping it on the floor. What do you think would happen if you tweeted her back publically to tell her you wanted to deliver a whole new pizza to her free of charge so she’s not hungry?
  • Content source – The link to pizza from around the world sounds interesting. If you have surrounded yourself with a local group of pizza fanatics, they might love to see a RT from you on this!

So you see even a small, family-owned pizza parlor could create transformational business benefits simply by paying attention to what people are saying on the  Twitter stream. I hope you’ll experiment with these advanced search options and find ways to grow your business!

SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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