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How to Search Twitter

Tutorial on Using Internal Twitter Search Tools

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Searching for people, topics and conversations on Twitter can be tricky. There are many different ways to do a Twitter search, often yielding different results.

Plenty of third-party Twitter search tools do a good job of running specialized queries, too, but this article focuses on Twitter's built-in search tools.

How to Search Twitter Using the Traditional Internal Search Box

Twitter offers a couple of internal search tools that are easy to use and effective for most simple searches.

1)Built-in, internal Twitter search: The one most people use is the internal search box at the top of every user's Twitter homepage. That's the quickest place to search for particular people or conversations. It used to be pretty lousy, but Twitter has steadily improved this internal search service.

2) Twitter standalone search: This separate search service is accessible on a different Web page, and was built by another company that Twitter bought. The Twitter standalone search service used to be better than the internal search, but the differences aren't as great as they once were.

How to Search Twitter With the Built-In, Internal Tool

If you enter a keyword or #hashtag into the box at the top of the home page, it will show you the most recent tweets containing that word in a list in the main column. (Hashtags are words with the pound sign in front of them which people use to organize related tweets, create conversations and make them more searchable.)

You can sort the tweet search results based on timeliness. In other words, the most recent or real-time tweets; by popularity; or by those containing links. Click the "TOP" tab on the right at the top of the search results column and you will see a pull down menu with three choices:

  • Top
  • All
  • With Links

ALL: Shows Most Recent Tweets First

ALL will switch the search results to favor real-time tweets over popularity. The order of search results is mostly chronological, with the more recent shown first.

TOP: Tweets Filtered by Popularity

To switch back and see the most popular tweets, just click "Top" again. The "top" search results filter out "spammy" tweets and messages from some Twitter users who aren't very popular. They also are based on a formula that attempts to determine popularity, or favors more popular tweets over less popular ones.

With Links: Tweets Containing Links

This one's pretty self-evident. Click "with links" to look at tweets containing links to Web pages.

Promoted Tweet Results

Often, you'll see a tweet at the very top of the list marked in yellow as "Promoted by Sponsor's Name." That means the company named has paid Twitter to show its tweet as advertising. It doesn't mean it's the most recent or popular.

People Search Results

In the right sidebar, Twitter will also show you "people results" in response to your search query. It's a list of Twitter users that have the word you searched in their username or bio. Click "view all" to make the full list of users appear; it will be displayed in the main column.

If you're looking for specific people on Twitter, though, this article explains how to find people on Twitter using a variety of other strategies.

Below the people search results in the right sidebar, Twitter also shows images and videos that have been shared on Twitter that may relate to your search query term.

How to Use Twitter Advanced Search

Twitter bought a popular external search engine created by a company called Summize and continues to maintain it at the previously mentioned Twitter standalone search page. This search home page has a box for running simple queries, plus links to click "Advanced Search" to reach the page for doing more complex, targeted searches using various search filters.

The advanced search page has specific search boxes for searching on exact phrases, hashtags, different languages and various other options for phrasing. It also has three "people" search options, allowing you to look for tweets from a specific user, for example, or tweets sent to a specific user or referencing a specific user.

Two other nice search options are looking for tweets sent from particular locations and during particular time spans. As if that wasn't enough, you can also search for tweets by attitude--positive, negative or containing a question. Finally, you can also search for tweets that contain links or retweets.

Google and Twitter Search Mashups

Combining Google's search tools with Twitter can yield even more targeted results.

Try, for example, Google's special Twitter search tool. This custom Google search looks for Twitter bio pages and Twitter user information that contains your search term.

You can also check our Google's search shortcut library, where you can use some of Google's special search operators and run them against Twitter.

The Google command to run a site specific search is "site:", so in this case you would type after your query phrase:

site:twitter.com

If you wanted to search for a Twitter user who had "journalist" in his or her username or real name field on Twitter, you could use Google's operator to search the HTML title tag on Twitter's profile page. The query would look like this:

intitle: "journalist * on twitter" site:twitter.com

You can do a similar Google-Twitter search mashup against location and Twitter's user names and bios by using Google's OR function to run more than one search and combine the results.

For example, if you wanted to find people tweeting about tattoo shops in Portland, you could run this search on Google:

intitle: ("tattoo shop * on twitter" OR intext: "bio * tattoo shop") intext: "location * Portland" site:twitter.com

BING Offers Social Search Page

Microsoft also has a social search engine that can be worth using sometimes. It's called Bing social search.

Twitter Search Tools

Many other tools for searching Twitter are available from third-party developers, as described in this guide to Twitter search tools.

These mostly free tools take advantage of the Twitter API (application programming interface) and connect with Twitter's database of tweets to offer a variety of advanced searching functions.

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