How to Use Twitter’s Advanced Search Parameters to Uncover Relevant Mentions

This week, via Twitter’s Small Business Blog, a new post was released which provided an overview on how to use Twitter’s advanced search parameters to maxi

Which is great – Twitters never all that good at communicating the inner workings of their system and how to use their tools effectively, so any information on this front is helpful. But the detail provided was a little too basic and didn’t go into the full depth of what’s possible through the platform’s advanced search features.

So we decided to put together our own – a listing of how you can utilize Twitter’s search functions and qualifiers to make the most of the network’s stream of real-time conversation. And what’s more, we’ll also go over how to use those search parameters to set up constant monitoring to keep your brand on top of the latest news as it happens, via tweet.

Twitter search basics

By now, everyone pretty much understands how Twitter’s basic search works – there’s the search bar at the top of the screen (highlighted in the above screenshot), you type in your terms and go. Simple.

But there’s also Twitter’s advanced search qualifiers. Through these – and as noted by Twitter:

“You could see every Tweet from today, by someone in your city (or another location), with the phrase “what should I have for dinner?”. You could filter to see everything a particular account (maybe your competitor) Tweeted in October. You could find a Tweet by remembering a phrase in it — even if you forgot who Tweeted it. You could find all the users who have “fashionista” in their bios and so much more.”

To locate Twitter’s advanced search, conduct your search as normal then, once you’re in the results screen, click on the ‘More Options’ tab at the top right. This will open up a new drop down menu with a range of additional tools.

Go down to ‘Advanced Search’ at the bottom and you’ll be taken to this screen.

As you can see, the breadth of options is already pretty comprehensive through this tool.

Searching for all tweets mentioning your key terms is often counter-productive because there’ll be so many off-topic and unrelated mentions across the network, so the ‘Exact phrase’ qualifier is one that definitely comes in handy, enabling you to specify the exact combination of words you’re looking for.

For example, searching for “social media today” as an exact phrase would only highlight tweets with those three terms together, whereas a general search for “social media today” returns all tweets containing those three words in any capacity:

You can also put in additional qualifiers like exclusions and hashtags.

Exclusions come in handy when your terms can be used in varying contexts – you might want to look up mentions of “shades” for example, in the context of sunglasses, but you do that search and you’re going to be inundated with “50 Shades of Gray” mentions. For this, you might exclude the terms “50” and “gray”, giving you a much more relevant list.

You can also narrow down your search to specific accounts, which is helpful when you’re looking for that cool GIF that your friend posted but can’t remember exactly what they wrote or when they tweeted it.

When you open the Internet and forget ‘Game of Thrones’ has already aired…

It also enables you to check out what your competitors are tweeting and whether they’re discussing certain topics, trends, hashtags, etc.

Using the ‘To these accounts’ and ‘Mentioning these accounts’ qualifiers, you can see your history of interactions with a person or brand – or anyone else’s, which can also be beneficial in monitoring Twitter for opportunities.

There’s also the location filter, which enables you to search for tweets sent from whatever city or region is relevant to your search (you need to have location services switched on for this to work).

You can also search within a certain time frame and use the “Positive”, “Negative” and “Question” qualifiers based on language detection terms – i.e. a tweet using your search term/s and “great” would likely be deemed positive, while the same with “bad” might come up in the negative list.

Automated sentiment detection is never perfect, and neither are the question searches necessarily (which includes any tweet with a question mark and your term/s), but used with all the other various measures, you can come up with pretty narrow focused search parameters than can help make more sense out of the 6,000 tweets being sent every second.

Worth noting, too, that when you do conduct a Twitter search, the default listing will be the ‘Top tweets’, which is based on the popularity of the tweet itself, the creator, their relationship to you, etc. If you’re looking for an unfiltered view, you need to switch to the ‘Live’ tab.

In terms of how Twitter defines ‘Top Tweets’, Twitter’s always developing their algorithms with a view to showing you more relevant content – this is most notable in their new feed algorithm which highlights the most relevant tweets that have been posted since you last logged on, based on your historic interests and audience. As their algorithms advance, so too does their search system, though that’s only relevant if you’re looking for content most likely to be relevant to you.

If you’re searching for information more broadly, it’s worth noting that ‘Top tweets’ is likely not what you’re after, ‘Live’ will generally be more relevant.

Advancing Your Search Efforts

While Twitter’s readily available basic and advanced search measures are definitely beneficial, there’s actually more options at your disposal than what you can see in the tools provided, and they can be used beyond Twitter’s search field alone.

When you conduct an advanced search, have a look at how the terms you’ve used are actually listed in the search field at the top right of screen (on desktop).

There you can see exactly how the search term is composed, in text form, which shows you how the various qualifiers are listed.

In this instance, the exact search term used is:

“social media” #smm near:”New York, NY” within:15mi 🙂

This is important because it enables you to use those terms in other contexts – for example, you can take that search and paste it directly into a stream in Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, enabling you to keep track of new, relevant tweets as they’re posted without having to repeatedly re-enter the query.

That column will remain active in TweetDeck, enabling me to get an update every time I log on or refresh, highlighting the relevant mentions straight away.

You can also edit those parameters manually and add in additional qualifiers to further refine your search – here’s a full list of the Twitter search qualifiers you can use:

search term Show all tweets mentioning these terms
“search term” Show tweets that mention this exact query only
this OR that Show tweets containing “this” or “that” (or both)
this –that Show tweets that contain a mention of “this” but not “that”
filter:links Only show tweets with links
filter:-links Only show tweets without links
from:@username Only show tweets from a specific user
-from:@username Filter out tweets from a specific user
to:@username Only show tweets sent to a specific user
-to:@username Filter out tweets sent to a specific user
@username Only show tweets referencing a specific user
-@username Filter out tweets referencing a specific user
list:@username/my-list Only show tweets from accounts included on the list @username/my list
filter:safe Tweets marked as potentially sensitive are removed from the results list
filter:media Only show tweets including an image or video
filter:native_video Only show tweets including an uploaded video, Amplify video, Periscope or Vine
filter:periscope Only show tweets with Periscope video
filter:vine Only show tweets with Vine video
filter:images Only show tweets with photos (will include Instagram content)
filter:twimg Only show tweets with a pic.twitter link (or multiple images)
🙂 Positive mentions
🙁 Negative mentions
? Question
#hashtag Only show tweets containing this hashtag
near:city Only show tweets sent near this city
near:city within:15mi Only show tweets sent within 15 miles of this city (you can list any distance and you can use ‘mi’ or ‘km’
since:2016-6-27 Only show tweets sent since a certain date
until:2016-6-27 Only tweets sent up until a certain date
min_retweets:100 Only show tweets with at least 100 retweets (you can enter any number you like)

Used in combination, these can help you find very specific mentions – for example:

“social media today” filter:links near:washington within:50mi since:2016-6-1 min_retweets:20

Would show me all the tweets using the exact phrase “social media today” tweeted over the last month near Washington which garnered a minimum of 20 re-tweets. While this is just a random example, you could use this if you were visiting a certain region and wanted to target the most active and influential Twitter voices on a certain topic.

(And worth noting, Twitter’s working with Foursquare to advance their locational tweet efforts, which may make it easier to filter by region some day soon.)

And really, the possibilities of Twitter’s advanced search capacity are almost endless, there’s a heap of ways you can chop and change your parameters to find the most relevant tweets, enabling you to stay on top of the evolving Twitter conversation. We’ve written before about Twitter’s under-rated utility and how it can be used to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening – Twitter’s advanced search operands are what enable you to do this – and what’s more, you don’t necessarily even have to pay for an expensive monitoring system to keep track of relevant mentions.

In addition, you can also use Twitter search to track all mentions of a particular URL or blog post.

To do this, you need to search for the URL without the “http://www.” at the beginning.

For example:

As you can see here, I’ve entered in the full URL, including the “http” prefix, and it’s returned one result for this particular post. But if I enter the search without the “http” prefix:

It shows me every mention of this URL – even those included within shortened links.

Taming the Tweet Stream

As noted, using Twitter’s additional qualifiers can greatly refine and enhance your on-platform search efforts. There are half a billion tweets sent every day, and locating the signal amidst that mass of noise can be tough, but there’s a heap of value in there waiting to be fished out – you just need to build the right net to do it.

Using these advanced qualifiers and saving them to TweetDeck or another social media management tool, you can build your own tracking system that will enable you to stay on top of relevant tweet mentions and respond to them fast – ideally, faster than your competitors.

It takes a bit of work to narrow down the specific terms you need to track, but I’ll leave you with this final example as an indicator of what can be done once you have put in that initial research effort.

The US Geological Survey uses Twitter conversation to track earthquake activity, and they’ve found that Twitter data can be a highly accurate measure of seismic activity. But, of course, in order to track the right data, they need to locate the relevant tweets out of the mass of related mentions and noise.

USGS uses only two, simple qualifiers which have proven to be enough to provide accurate alerts based on Twitter conversation:

“They found that people Tweeting about actual earthquakes kept their Tweets really short, even just to ask, “earthquake?” Concluding that people who are experiencing earthquakes aren’t very chatty, they started filtering out Tweets with more than seven words. They also recognized that people sharing links or the size of the earthquake were significantly less likely to be offering firsthand reports, so they filtered out any Tweets sharing a link or a number. Ultimately, this filtered stream proved to be very significant at determining when earthquakes occurred globally.”    

They did the research and found what works, and now they have an accurate stream of relevant data which they can track in real-time.

What terms and queries would be relevant for your brand?

mize your Twitter search efforts and locate the content you need.

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