Amadeus Consulting Discusses Using Twitter More Effectively

This article was originally written by Amadeus Consulting’s Todd McMurtrey as a guest article for The Modern Independent, a political insight blog focusing on national and Colorado politics. Although the original article focused on using Twitter for political campaigns, it has been reposted here and slightly edited by the author to better reflect uses specific to business.

10 Tips for Using Twitter More Effectively

Search.Twitter.Com allows any user to search through all public tweets to see what is being said about certain issues. However, for most business and professional uses, knowing who is tweeting is almost as important as what is being said. Search.Twitter.com and certain Google search strings can help find and identify very specific information, which enables you to make better informed decisions, as well as to better connect with the right influencers that can help energize your grassroots campaign.

The nice thing about Twitter™ is that it is almost entirely open and public. Of course you can send things privately, but according to Twitter, over 95% of tweets are open. This provides a wealth of information, as well as the ability to engage in the conversation and sincerely talk with people.

1. Target by Location

Most businesses, such as a restaurant, cannot serve everybody everywhere, but can still benefit by engaging people in a local vicinity. Being able to target Twitter users by location lets you know what is being said about you, about life in the area, and about whatever interests or concerns people around you.

We will eventually combine this type of search with other searches to further filter our search results, but for now we just want to know who in the Denver, Colorado area is on twitter.

The advanced search options let you do this pretty easily, and you can search for tweets coming from specific geographical regions. Or by typing this into twitter – near:”Denver, CO” within:25mi – it will display all the tweets coming from that specific region, which includes Denver and its suburbs.

This lets you search back through past tweets; however there are some real time tools that let your track tweets by location as they happen.  My favorite is Bing Silverlight Maps, which may require the installation of Silverlight, which only takes a few seconds.

2. Target Occupation

Let’s say you want to connect with people of a certain occupation: accountants, for example. At the option of users, Twitter shows the profession of people in their Titles. Although Twitter does not have a feature that lets you search according to people’s occupation, Google does.

Using Google’s search operators, we can narrow down our results to only show specific professions. This is shown here – intitle:”accountant * on twitter” site:twitter.com – and displays everyone who has accountant in their title.

The intitle: modifier allows you to search only through the information in the title tags. This lets you filter out everyone who only mentions accountants, and produces results of people who have tagged themselves as an accountant.

3. Target Biography

Similar to the occupation search, the biography search can help you find people by specific occupations, roles, or other keywords. If you are looking for something specific, try using both and see which gives you better results.

Using the biography search to find accountants – intext:”Bio * accountant” site:Twitter.com – may produce different results since it would show anyone with the word accountant in their biography, and not just as their profession.

This is also useful for when people do not list a title, but provide a descriptive biography instead.

4. Combining Location and Occupation

So far, we have looked for some specific things, but these may still produce too many results to be helpful.  Fortunately, we can combine these to narrow our results.

To combine location and occupation (or any other keyword from the Title or Bio section), use Google search and again use the intext or intitle modifier. So, for example, to find all the hotels in Denver that are on twitter, try this – intext:”Bio: * Hotel” intext:”Denver * CO” Site:twitter.com – it’s a little bit lengthy, but it works. I have also noticed that you often get different results when you type Colorado, CO, or just Denver without the * Colorado. You can also use the Intitle: tag as mentioned above.

5. Finding New Accounts

Over 300,000 people sign up to twitter each day. Of course, not all of those are in your area or at all interested in you or your business. However, some of them might be. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a way to be notified when they signed up?

One way to do this would be to set up a custom Google Alert. Google Alerts will let you know when anything new happens that fits your criteria, and is a great way to monitor what is being said about yourself or key issues in the news and online media (including social media).

To do this, go to Google.com/alerts and input one of the above search strings into the search terms box. Put in your email and select your preferences, and like magic you will be notified every time someone creates a new twitter account that fits your criteria. It is a perfect opportunity to make friends and followers since they will be new and lonely in the wonderful world of Twitter.

Google Alerts is also easy to cancel, should you put in the wrong terms or put in terms that are too broad causing you to get overwhelmed. Some of the following tips can also help further define your search, and limit duplicate information.

I envision some businesses sending a “welcome to Twitter” message to new users in their area and offering some sort of discount or coupon.  It would be an excellent way to create buzz, and a devoted following of people who sincerely appreciate you.

6. Only get Original Information

Twitter messages can be easily transferred and rebroadcast (“retweeting”). This is great for spreading messages, but can make search results messy if you get multiple duplicates each time you search.

There are two useful modifiers that help limit duplicate posts or retweets. This is especially important should you use any of these search terms to create an RSS feed. The first is –RT, which filters out any retweets, and the second is –VIA which filters out information from another source.

7. Keeping up on the discussion

Sometimes it is very useful to know what people are talking about. However, with so many tweets each day, it is helpful if you can narrow your search to specific topics, and avoid all the re-tweets (essentially duplicate tweets) and look for tweets that have a link in them, which usually indicates meatier content, such as a blog or new article.

You can do this pretty easily using the advanced search options in Twitter, or by using search modifiers. In this case, the search “entrepreneur” OR “small business” OR “start up” filter:links -RT will show you how people are talking about small businesses and the issues around them.

8. Keeping up on the competition

An extremely useful search, this lets you see exactly what specific people are saying, and what people are saying to them. This lets you know what you are up against, and gives you a good feel for what they are doing, assuming that they actually use Twitter.

From:stevejobs OR to:stevejobs will display all the public tweets from the Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, as well as all the public tweets to Steve Jobs. In this case, substitute the “SteveJobs” for the twitter name of the person or business you want to follow. Keep in mind that anyone can search this way for your name as well, so be mindful of what you say and how you respond to users.

9. People not talking to you directly, but talking about you

This is also extremely useful. Part of the value of Twitter is that it allows you to sample the conversations being made around the world. It is not paranoia to wonder what people are saying about you when not including @You in the conversation.

Being able to filter this out might help you find and connect with those that use your products or services, or those that criticize you or your company. With the proper engagement strategy, this can be an excellent way to turn your enemies into friends, or at least less vocal enemies, and your friends into better friends and customers.

This is done by using the “-” modifier which ignores results that have a specific keyword in them. For example, we could search for: Steve Jobs -from:stevejobs -to:stevejobs -@stevejobs, which lets us know talking about Steve Jobs, but not addressing him directly.

This is important because it is extremely easy to see what is being said about you if they include @you in the conversion. However, most people fail, or forget, to look at what is being said when you are not around.

On a related note, there is also a good site called Backtweets.com that lets you search Twitter for links to a specific site. For example, you can search for links to your blog, or news article and see who is linking to it. Backtweets.com also covers shortened links, so even if people us bit.ly or other link shorteners, it will still display the results.

10. Photos or Images

Sometimes it is helpful to find pictures or images uploaded to Twitter. For example, if you just went to a convention or event and you want to find some pictures that attendees took, you can construct a search for that. Although since Twitter does not host the pictures, they do not have a good search feature to filter out just pictures.

To do that, you can use picture hosting sites, such as twitpic.com as a keyword and look for people that mention any of those sites in their post, along with your specified keyword.

For example, we can search for pictures of the recent 2010 E3 conference by searching for E3 2010 twitpic OR Ow.ly OR pikchure filter:links. There are many picture hosting sites, so you can put in whichever ones you like. Again, notice we are using the Filter:links search modifier. Unfortunately, some of these sites also act as a link shortener, and so not all results are actually pictures.

Bonus: Search by Volume and Time

Twitter, and a few other search sites let you search for tweets coming from a certain time period. However, Google has just released a tool that will graphically track the volume of keywords in Twitter, and display it over time. At the time of this writing, it only goes back to the February 9, 2010, but will soon allow searches all the way back to 2006, when Twitter was just launched.

It has just been removed from labs, and but you can play with the live update tool here, or in the sidebar of your Google search. It is definitely useful way to see the trends of specific topics over time, and see how they are affected by external media campaigns.

About Todd McMurtrey

The marketing team at Amadeus Consulting considers it part of their daily tasks to stay on top of what is going on in the technology marketplace. It is important to our company culture to be technology thought leaders, but we also want to share our knowledge and insights with readers excited about the latest and greatest tech news in the Tech Market Watch blog.


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