With more than 500 million Tweets per day, there’s no doubt Twitter is a challenging platform to dissect, learn and understand all the ins and outs. Because there are so many moving parts with Twitter, it’s easy to get lost in the seemly infinite amount of clutter. That’s why Twitter Search Operators were developed to help you move through the mess and get your answer more efficiently.
Jump to the Twitter or Sprout Social Search Operators Cheatsheet.
Twitter has offered its advanced search tools for years now, but not that many people, and more importantly businesses, know how to work them. This doesn’t mean people aren’t searching for content on Twitter. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Roughly 2.1 billion searches are performed every single day on the social media site.
That’s a ridiculous figure to comprehend if you’ve never done a Twitter search in the past. However, more likely than not, if you’re a Twitter user, you’ve at least used the search bar in the top corner to find your friends, celebrities, a popular event or maybe a business to reach out to.
While this type of search is simple enough, there are many more methods that can help you dig deeper without the noise of hundreds of millions of Tweets on the platform.
Basics of Twitter Advanced Search
Instead of the of type of Twitter search we talked about above, Advance Search is a more complex application program interface (API) used to get exact search results. Advanced Search can truly be a treasure-trove of information if you use it the right way.
Right from the beginning, you can see that a Twitter Advanced Search lets you customize your search results with specific date ranges, people or keywords used on Twitter to find more specific data. This tool is used to refine searches for Tweets including things like:
- All of these words
- Exact phrases
- Tweet replies
- Tweet from
Even though this is just the tip of the iceberg, these are some of the most common Twitter search functions used on the platform. On the other hand, sometimes these search results still don’t pull the right information, which is why Twitter’s API allows you use Twitter Search Operators to detail more in-depth searches in the same way.
How Do Twitter Search Operators Work?
In a nutshell, search operators are specialized keys used to narrow down search results. One of the most common search operators you have likely used is the hashtag. Every time you use a Twitter hashtag, that phrase or keyword is categorized with other Tweets using that same hashtag.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 2, 2016
While this search is simple enough, you can add more operators to further refine your search query. Think about if you just searched “Super Bowl restaurants,” your results would be endless. However, using Twitter search operators like:
— AlaMesa (@alamesacuba) February 2, 2016
This will drastically narrow down results so you find more Tweets like the one above. Twitter search operators work to ensure your results include exactly what you add. For example, if you use quotation marks, you’re asking the search results to pull Tweets only with those keywords inside the quotation marks. Additionally, if you add parentheses around groups of keywords, you’re asking the results to pull Tweets that have something from group one and group two. You can also add negatives to exclude specific keywords or phrases from search results:
With these operators, you’re asking to pull Tweets about Apple or Mac, but to exclude anything revolving around the words iPhone, computer or iTunes. This specific search will bring more broad company news about Apple without getting all the clutter of people taking about their new iPhone or Apple computer.
— Campaign: Brands (@MarketingUK) February 2, 2016
Why Use Search Operators?
You might be asking yourself, “OK, I get Twitter search operators, but why would I want to use them?” Marketers skilled in search operators often use these tools on social to dive deeper in the marketing research they perform.
Ashleigh Baytala, a Customer Success Manager at Sprout Social, explained why it’s necessary to gather content that matters most to your specific brand.
“With the amount of content available on Twitter, it’s incredibly important to be able to hone your search,” said Baytala. “While simple searching can alleviate some of the pain points in content return, advanced operators truly dive into the nitty gritty.”
You should think of Twitter Search Operators as a better way to discover news, information and conversations about your brand that you’re not seeing or involved with. Here are a few ways you can use Twitter Search Operators to boost your social media marketing efforts:
Previous Conversations With Users
For brands, it’s impossible to remember every Twitter conversation with a specific user, but with Twitter advanced searches, you can find messages between two people more easily. For example, if you wanted to see conversations between our other contributor @djthewriter and @SproutAlexYork, you can simply enter this operator:
— Alex York (@SproutAlexYork) November 9, 2015
This will help you pull all conversations like the one above into a single stream so you could pinpoint each conversation between the two accounts. For businesses searching through conversations, this helps them get right to the point with a conversation so they can pick up where they left off. Additionally, businesses can use this for marketing outreach so you don’t ask the same questions to other users.
Mentions Sent to Your Brand
Twitter doesn’t autocorrect Tweets or text in search results, so you could be missing out on questions, comments or concerns sent your way but to the wrong handle. This is really important for brands that have names that are easy to misspell, closely related to other brands or have multiple social profiles.
For example, the Chicago brewery Half Acre could have mentions to @HalfAcre, Half Acre or even misspellings like Half Acer. Also, the word acre could bring up Tweets that have nothing to do with the brewery, which is why you set the operator to also include the keyword beer.
In these specific results, we see both an @mention and a simple keyword find.
Sprout Social Search Operators
Even though Twitter allows you to use search operators for complex searches including @mentions, hashtags, keyword groups and exclusions, there are more operators out there to dwindle down the search even more. Twitter’s API gives you the chance to dive deeper, but what if it’s not far enough?
If you’re searching for specific Tweets for social media engagement opportunities, you may want to find users who are verified or from a specific location. That’s where Sprout Social’s Smart Inbox and Keyword Search tools help you find exactly what you’re looking for on Twitter, while putting everything together in a single-stream inbox. Through Sprout, you can also save your search results in the platform so you remember which operators were the most successful at bringing you to your audience.
Sprout’s Twitter search operators are different than those on the native Twitter platform and you can use these specific tools to search for content such as:
Blog Posts In Your Field
Through Sprout’s API, you can search for content that is either related to your industry or that mentions your brand name in the URL. These searches are great to see what businesses or blogs are talking about you. Additionally, it can help you find what influencers are saying in your industry.
You want to know what others in your field are saying so you can stay abreast of trends and news to create your own content. Sprout’s Twitter management tools can be used for “how-to” searches associated with a major keyword in your industry. For example, you could use the operator:
This will help you discover stories about engagement and social media content, while staying in your Sprout single-stream inbox.
Tweets In Your Location
With Sprout’s advanced keyword search, you enter a Twitter keyword and simply click “near this place” in the right menu on the messages tab to enter a location and milage near that specific area. This will help you get as specific as you want with the location you’re monitoring. You can search keywords like hungry, recommendation, restaurant and food.
Then, you can easily select the “near this place” category to find Tweets near that location about the above keywords without all the noise of other Tweets.
If you were looking to host an event in a different city, these types of searches could help you find what people are saying about your brand before and after the event and in that specific location.
Sentiments Attached to Your Brand
Do you know how your audience feels about your product or service? Using a sentiment operator can help you find negative or positive emotions tied to keywords or user profiles. Users don’t always tag your brand’s Twitter account when they have an issue or want to give praise. Searching for sentiments attached to your brand can help you understand how well people respond to your product or service. For example, if you wanted to see Twitter conversations about the fast food restaurant In-N-Out and those who are craving it, you would use this Twitter search operator:
You’ll find that people sometimes use the negative sentiment along with the word “craving” in the same Tweet. This will exclude those who are only speaking negatively and reach users who are just hungry for your product.
Importance of Social Monitoring
In today’s social media-driven world, the modern customer wants to reach out to your company in the easiest way possible. The problem is many companies are not seeing or responding to those who have questions or concerns. In fact, 30% of Tweets to brands don’t include a Twitter handle and less than 10% are completely directed to brands.
With these stats in mind, there are potentially thousands of customers having conversations about you instead of with you. When brands value social media monitoring, they’re opening the door for the social conversation. This means customers will feel more appreciated when you’re able to easily search, find and respond to conversations about your brand.
Baytala added how social media monitoring helps brands wade through the millions of irrelevant Tweets to target in on useable and actionable information on Twitter.
“Sprout lets you dive as deep as locating Twitter handles that only contain certain keywords (of your choosing) in their bio,” Baytala continued. “Or you can even tag searches to pull back Tweets from folks with a certain followers count base.”
Monitoring the Twitter landscape can be challenging, but with Sprout’s reporting features, you can collect contextual insight on topics, hashtags and trending Tweets that surround your business. To get your feet wet in social monitoring, try Sprout Social for free for 30 days!