While I’ve noted the advanced Twitter search operators in the past, but wanted to spend some quality time looking at them in more detail. The standard AND/OR operators are useful, but aren’t all that interesting. Below is a look at the standard operators, with a focus on uses for some very interesting operators that let you filter searches based on location, attitude, posts with links, dates and more, along with some limitations and cautions for each one.
Keep in mind that most of these same search queries work equally well in Twitter search and various other applications, like TweetDeck and Monitter. Spend some time in the Twitter search refining your results using the operators discussed below, and then take advantage of those advanced queries in your other monitoring applications.
Twitter search uses many of the common operators used by search engines. Use the OR operator to state that one or other (or both) of the keywords must be present, search for phrases using quotes, and exclude results using the “-” operator.
Using the “near:” operator is a great way to filter tweets that mention something you’re searching for that is also a common word. For example, I might use location to find people mentioning Posies (a cafe in Portland) without finding every mention of the flower, the band or other non-relevant results:
- posies near:portland
- posies near:portland within:30mi
Searching by location can be very useful, but keep in mind that it will miss tweets from people with bogus or improperly formatted locations. The location search became almost useless recently when many users around the world started setting their Twitter location to Tehran. Despite these caveats, I find some interesting information by narrowing tweets to my location.
Right now, Twitter search only seems to go back about 10 days, so a date search is only useful if you need to filter for something fairly recent. However, filtering by date can be useful when presented with a high volume of results:
- iranelection until:2009-07-08
- “michael jackson” since:2009-07-07
The positive and negative attitude filters simply find people using the smiling and frowning emoticons; however, it does seem to include several varieties of each emoticon. I would use it as a quick way to find positive or negative mentions, but I wouldn’t use it for any kind of measurement. For example:
- “michael jackson” :)
- “michael jackson” :(
You can also filter for posts asking questions. This can be a great way to find and answer questions about a topic, for example:
- “yahoo pipes” ?
From / To
Another interesting set of operators, from and to, allow you to search just for posts sent from a particular user or to a particular user, for example:
- twitter from:webworkerdaily
- book to:oprah
You might want to combine the “from” or “to” operators with some of the others. It’s a great way to make sure that you don’t miss any important questions sent to you. You can also use it to find questions or positive/negative attitude posts directed toward a particular user, for example:
- :) to:geekygirldawn
- ? to:geekygirldawn
I saved the best for last. One of my primary reasons for using Twitter is to find interesting information, and while I do get information from individual tweets, you can only say so much in 140 characters, so the best information often comes to me as links:
- monitoring twitter filter:links
Or you can use this filter in combination with the “from” operator to find links from certain people:
- from:om filter:links
I tried to cover some of the less well known, but useful search operators. There are several additional operators that I haven’t covered here, so you should take a look at the Twitter search operators page for more details and examples.
How do you use the Twitter advanced search operators?