Tracking Twitter by Topic: What's the Best Solution?

twitterEditor’s Note: With this post we welcome Eric Berlin to the WebWorkerDaily team. Eric is an award-winning web producer, writer, and entrepreneur who has managed and produced web sites and online communities for more than a decade.

Web working increasingly means having to read up-to-the-nanosecond trending topics and conversations across the social web, and on Twitter in particular. With the huge and growing number of Twitter apps and related services that are now available, it can be confusing to figure out the best way to quickly and easily extract those keyword-based threads that you need.

With that in mind, Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land recently offered up a list of a number of different ways to track Twitter conversations based on keyword topics.

Sullivan’s specific mission was to find a way to aggregate tweets based on the keywords that he’s interested in and to import them directly into his Twitter profile’s stream.

With our SMX West search marketing conference happening this week, I wanted to keep track of the real-time buzz for SMX on Twitter. I knew how to do this manually by checking Twitter Search, but was there a way to have this flow into my regular Twitter stream, along with posts from people that I normally follow? Thanks to suggestions from people on Twitter, there was!

It is possible to do this, as it turns out, but it takes a little work. TweetDeck works well for tracking conversations based on search results via multiple panes, while Twhirl allows you to feed search terms directly into your Twitter stream by using the search box and “Activate” tool.

Twitterfeed is also mentioned as a potential solution as it allows you to import RSS feeds into a Twitter profile. Therefore, Sullivan’s mission is fulfilled in this way, as you can create a new Twitter profile, add RSS feeds based on Twitter search results (by grabbing the RSS feed from any Twitter Search results page) using Twitterfeed, and then follow that new Twitter profile using your main Twitter profile.

Personally, I’m not interested in inserting search results based on keywords directly into my Twitter stream because the “firehose” effect can overwhelm the ability to easily track multiple conversations and topics. And like Robert Scoble (who famously tracks quite a firehose of information already!), I’m “old school” in that, while I love TweetDeck and Twhirl, I mostly use Twitter on the web and simply refresh the page when I want to see the latest tweets in my stream.

I’m also a huge fan of RSS, so my favorite way to track conversations and trends that I’m interested in from the Twitterverse is to grab the RSS feed from search results on the Twitter Search site and simply add them to Google Reader. This way I can check in on topics I’m interested in anytime I like while handling my daily Twitter interactions separately.

Of course, Twitter is only one piece, albeit a significant one, of the larger social media picture. Increasingly, it’s important to track conversations across a variety of social media platforms. I like using Social Media Firehose, a Yahoo! Pipes mashup, for this. Simply type in the topics you’d like to search for, and an RSS feed is produced that captures “a slew of social media sites, including flickr, twitter, friendfeed, digg etc.” Social Media Firehose also lets you specify search by geographic location or by domains you’d like to filter out.

What’s your favorite method for tracking Twitter and social media topics?

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