Why and how to use Twitter for listening

One reason? Leads, of course.


When I talk with entrepreneurs about social media, their excitement is often tempered. Each seems to feel or have been told that social media is something they need to do, but they don’t know how to get started. Or they don’t know how to make it worth their time.

My response to this, every time, is this: Start listening (or get back to it).

Social media listening (aka social media monitoring) is the first part of every social endeavor, personal or professional. Listening is fundamental for success in social media — but it’s sometimes fleeting and sometimes overlooked, overcome by the impatience of waiting for the long-game to pay off.

We’ve all got something to say, and I promise you’ll get to that, but you’ll find more success from time spent in social if your foundation is solid, and that starts with listening. Then engaging. And then sharing, creating, and publishing.

Give Twitter your ears

Twitter is amazing for listening because of the platform’s binary privacy paradigm, where profiles are either all public or all private (“protected”) — leaving all Tweets from the former discoverable for the rest of us. This in contrast to Facebook, where the privacy of each post is unique and the default setting for each post to be shared with “Friends,” leaving all those posts undiscoverable for those of us looking to listen in and learn more and (later) engage.

The market is awash with social tools, but the basics of social listening can be managed through official tools that Twitter makes available to us all for free: Twitter search, Twitter Advanced Search, and TweetDeck.

If you’re new to this, you’ll find that Twitter’s own search tool is outstanding, supporting search for “Top” Tweets, Live (real-time) Tweets, Accounts, Tweets with photos, Tweets with videos, etc. Twitter Advanced Search is built into this tool, and it’s used in the examples below.

Not-quite-power-users will appreciate TweetDeck for a little more robust experience than what Twitter offers layTweeters. TweetDeck adds functionality to Twitter search to further refine results, including:

  • limiting displayed results to only posts from verified users.
  • limiting displayed results to only posts with X number of Favorites or Retweets or Replies.
  • enabling you to “clear” the posts you’ve already reviewed.

These improvements can be especially useful for following high-profile events.

Use advanced search to generate business leads

I’ll assume you’ve already begun searching for good accounts to follow based on keywords important to you. Let’s move onto something sexier and less obvious, like how you could generate business leads from Twitter search.

If I ran a coffee house in Scottsdale, AZ, I’d keep this type of search running all the time:

“I’m so tired” near:”Scottsdale, AZ” within:15mi

As you can see, there are some advanced search functions happening here. On its Advanced Search page, Twitter puts these functions within reach of those of us who don’t speak boolean. Those of you already versed in boolean can dive in with something even harder-core:

Here’s a search for a repair person in Chicago looking for leads:

“know a good” (plumber OR handywoman OR handyman) -from:spammer -from:creeper -from:badguys near:”Chicago, IL” within:10mi since:2015-05-15 until:2015-05-21

Twitter search can prove invaluable for those willing to invest a little time into understanding how it works and fine-tuning it to their goals. Here are some resources to take it from here: