By now you have probably realized the power of just 140 characters. But to show you just how powerful tweets are, on November 6, 2012, President Barack Obama was re-elected. Television networks had called it at 11:19PM ET and as that happened, Twitter recorded more than 300,000 tweets were sent per minute. This even prompted Twitter CEO, Dick Costolo, to tweet out:
Wow. The tweets they are many. Incredible.
— dick costolo (@dickc) November 7, 2012
But with that many tweets and in that short of a time, it cannot be easy to filter through so many conversations in search of specific information. It is also hard to figure out the demographics such as gender of the tweeters or the sentiment of the tweets.
Luckily there are specialized twitter search resources for that. As highlighted in Scott Moore’s video “Searching for and analyzing tweets,” Snap Bird, SearchHash, TweetCharts, Tweet Archivist and Twazzup are just a few of the resources that can enhance the search experience of Twitter.
Specialized search strategies
Searching through Twitter History
Searching through Twitter is great when you are looking for the most recent tweets but trying to go back and find older tweets can sometimes be a hassle. According to an article called “Where Have All The Old Tweets Gone” in Search Engine Land, Twitter only lets you see around 1500 tweets in any search. While that might seem like a lot, remember that for large events like the re-election of President Barack Obama, the number of tweets surpasses 1500 in seconds. Also for users that tweet a lot like @CNN, trying to find their old tweets is difficult and time consuming. With the help of websites like Snap Bird, searching through Twitter’s history becomes a lot easier.
When it comes to searching through Twitter’s history, Snap Bird is one of the best at doing so. Snap Bird allows users to search further back than 10 days, in your friends’ tweets, and within your direct messages if you authenticate Snap Bird through Twitter. For users that follow many people, have frequent conversations over Twitter and use Direct Messaging, these benefits will allow them to search more quickly and it is highly recommended to authenticate Snap Bird with Twitter.
Snap Bird also lets you look within any public user’s favorites and allows for quick and easy searches for key words through public user’s tweets. We can demonstrate this using Darren Rovell, @darrenrovell, an ESPN sports analyst who has more than 36,000 tweets. With his analysis of sports, he also tweets breaking news or astounding statistics about sports business. He usually gives the first looks at new uniforms that college football teams will be wearing for games. To find how many times he tweeted out uniforms, we can head to Snap Bird to figure it out. As seen below, we searched “someone’s timeline” where that someone was @darrenrovell and we were looking for when he mentioned “uniforms.”
After submitting the filled categories, I was given these results. In a matter of seconds, Snap Bird gave me the 14 tweets out of 3,219 searched all the way back at August 5, 2012.
All results are linked back to the original tweet as well. With just searching through Twitter, it would have taken at least 10 minutes to go all the way back to August 5th and even longer to decipher which of those 3,000+ tweets were about uniforms. The advantages of Snap Bird are apparent here. The big disadvantage to Snap Bird is that you cannot do searches for mentions through all of Twitter. For example, we could not have searched for mentions of “uniforms” throughout all of Twitter; you must supply a specific twitter handle in order for Snap Bird to work. However, there are many other specialized Twitter search resources to handle that, as you will see below.
An obstacle businesses face when wanting to advertise on Twitter is the lack of information available about the consumer. Twitter does not require you to publicize your age, where you are from or even your real name making it hard for companies to reach their target markets. Therefore, companies must rely on creating a buzz about their company on Twitter with special hashtags or creative social media campaigns. Being able to analyze how well those hashtags or campaigns are doing is the next step for these companies who must reach their goals and produce a Return on Investment (ROI) through their strategies. SearchHash, TweetCharts, Tweet Archivist and Twazzup are all great websites to use for analysis, though each have strengths (and weaknesses) in different areas.
SearchHash is a great website that shows a list of the most recent hashtagged tweets and lets you download the list into a spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel. Using #umich as an example, SearchHash gives this as the result:
As you can see, there is an option to download the results into a spreadsheet, which exports in the same format as above. This is very useful as you can actually save the results for later reviewing. However, the tweet limit is about 1395 tweets, which means results must be exported frequently for a broader time frame of results.
TweetCharts gives analysis about tweets with the term you search for. They show you the # of tweets that had links or pictures, were retweets, replies, mentions or had your search as a hashtag, what gender is of the tweeters and the percentage of unique users that spoke about the term you searched for. The biggest advantage is the ability to see the percentage of the tweets that were positive sentiment. Not many free websites show this information, which makes TweetCharts beat many other free analysis sites.
Using our #umich example again, the results on TweetCharts are below:
These tweets ranged from 11/18/12 to 11/25/12. TweetCharts also shows you the graph of tweets per hour about #umich, however, the graph is not labeled, making it hard to understand when the large spike near the end occurred. After some exploration using high frequency words and hashtags such as “Justin Bieber” “#BlackFriday” and “Thanksgiving,” we found that TweetCharts only acquires less than 1,000 tweets from the week even though those words and hashtag are used much more often than that. This makes the charts less accurate.
Because of this, TweetCharts is best used for finding sentiment immediately after an event with the word or hashtag has happened.
At the root, Tweet Archivist does the same thing that TweetCharts does: gives a well-rounded analysis. However, using the #umich search as an example, we will look into the key differences Tweet Archivist has from TweetCharts.
As you can see, Tweet Archivist gives more of an analysis on what was in the tweet itself by listing the top pictures and the exact links used in the tweets. They also give similar hashtags that were used such as #GOBLUE, a very relevant and similar hashtag to #umich. The biggest advantage is their “Tweet Volume Over Time” graph. The Tweet Volume Over Time graph shows us the volume throughout one week. It is clearly labeled and provides distinct points to outline each day. In the graph below, it looks like mentions of #umich spiked on November 24, 2012. This makes sense as the Michigan Wolverines played their rival, the Ohio State Buckeyes, in their annual football game.
All of this information can also be exported into both an Excel or a .ZIP file.
However, just like TweetCharts, tweets are limited by Tweet Archivist to a little less than 2,000 tweets a week. The best practice for this resource is to see how much and what is shared (i.e. links and pictures) with your search term over the last week.
The website Twazzup allows users to search and see the real-time results of their search on Twitter, in the news and in the community. It is used for what is happening currently about the topic and should not be used to search history. By far, its biggest advantage is that it allows users to see who is the most active talker in the community about the search term, who is the biggest influencer and who most recently spoke about the topic.
As seen from the above search on Twazzup for #umich, it gives you some highlights from around the web, news articles relating to the term, the most recent tweets, the community that speaks about #umich, and some related terms that went along with #umich. In the community setting, we can see the biggest influencers of #umich, including the Michigan Alumni Association (@michiganalumni) and Big Blue Tweets (@bigbluetweets), a feed devoted to all things Michigan Athletics. Although this site doesn’t tell you much about the tweets themselves, finding the people who talk about the search term can be a big advantage. For example, companies can leverage their most active users to help influence others to use or buy products. Twazzup is best used for seeing how a search term is being talked about around the web and who exactly is talking about it.
There is no resource that is “better” than the other because all of them should be used in different situations. The only thing to caution yourself on is that these resources should be used on a search that is currently relevant. For example, your results will be much more accurate when you search for “Valentine’s Day” just a few days after February 14th, rather than searching for it in April. For searching for sentiment over subjects that are talked about all the time such as iPhones, football, lunch or a company product they are pushing each week, it is best to get into the habit of exporting reports each week from these so you can compare results week-to-week for a more holistic analysis!
Comparison with Google Web search
You might be asking yourself, “Why would I use all this stuff when I can just Google it?” Well the thing is, these tools analyze a lot of things that can’t be accessed through Google. Google does not analyze tweets or tell you demographics of tweets like TweetCharts and Tweet Archivist can. Google also does not export tweets to spreadsheets for your usage at other times.
Doing a quick search with the examples we have used, we can see that Google does do the basics. Searching for “darren rovell uniforms” gives us these results:
Google actually does a pretty good job pulling up results of uniforms that Darren Rovell has posted out on Twitter. It is also important to note that these are all in chronological order starting from the most recent. Google also does not limit it to the plural “uniforms” but also search for “uniform,” which Snap Bird does not do.
However, searching for a hashtag like #umich brings out different results on Google:
It does give results for things that have #umich but Google relays immediately to Twitter for a better search. Further results show that Google drops the ‘#’ sign completely in results. Also, no analytic data is shown about #umich. The advantage here clearly goes to SearchHash, TweetChart, Tweet Archivist and Twazzup.
Although all these resources are fantastic and do a great job for what they’re catered to, it should be noted that there are many other sites in the web that have these capabilities. There are many businesses rising in order to cater to the growing need to analyze and search more in-depth for tweets. Many of those businesses are charging a price with their services of extensive searches, saving of tweets and even categorizing tweets based on sentiment.
For those wishing to do basic analysis or wanting to search back-in-time for a tweet from your friend, the resources provided are not only free but do a great job of giving you solutions. Each resource can be used for a different benefit and will give you more in-depth knowledge and farther reaching searches than both Twitter and Google provide!
Costolo, Dick (dickc). Wow. The tweets they are many. Incredible. 6 November 2012. Tweet: Used to cite a tweet from Dick Costolo
Moore, Scott. Searching for and analyzing tweets. 10 October 2012. Video. <http://youtu.be/Bpg-bLyPQes>: Used as basis of which specialized twitter sites to use
SearchHash. SearchHash: Download hashtagged tweets as a spreadsheet to archive or analyse. n.d. <http://www.searchhash.com>: One of the main search sites described in chapter.
Snap Bird. Snap Bird: Search beyond Twitter’s history. n.d. Website. <http://snapbird.org/>: One of the main search sites described in chapter.
Sullivan, Danny. Where Have All The Old Tweets Gone? 14 January 2010. Article. <http://searchengineland.com/where-have-all-the-old-tweets-gone-33579>: Used to find out how far back Twitter can go on their main site
Tweet Archivist. Tweet Archivist. n.d. <http://tweetarchivist.com>: One of the main search sites described in chapter.
TweetCharts. TweetCharts.com. n.d. <http://tweetcharts.com>: One of the main search sites described in chapter.
Twitter. Election Night 2012. 6 November 2012. <http://blog.twitter.com/2012/11/election-night-2012.html>: Used to describe power of Twitter
About the author
Maggie Chang is currently a student at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan with candidacy for a Bachelors of Business Administration. She has worked as the career services social media manager at the Ross School of Business as well as interned with the digital marketing team at performance apparel company Under Armour.