I used to use Google Alerts all the time to keep me apprised of what was going on in the world of Apple tech, for another gig I have writing online. It was a great solution, but eventually, Twitter’s real-time information flow became much more useful for me.
But the problem with Twitter is that it’s kind of unwieldy. I follow a lot of people, and even though I have multiple accounts to follow different groups of people, a lot gets lost in the stream. Twitter clients with built-in search help, but at a glance, Google Alert-like results would be ideal. Thankfully, there’s a service that does almost precisely that. It’s called TweetAlert.
At first glance, it seemed to me like a way to quickly and easily create your own spam bot, which obviously isn’t something I’d be interested in doing. Upon closer inspection, though, it actually offers a very manageable and unobtrusive way to create a tweet stream with a razor-sharp focus that should prove much more effective than the catch-all net fishing that is Twitter search.
What TweetAlert does is retweet any status update it finds that contains a hashtag of your choosing. For example, you could use #apple, and it would automatically search and retweet any post containing that variable using the account you register with the service. Obviously, you don’t want to use your main account for this otherwise you’ll end up spamming all of your followers; TweetAlert recommends that you create a new account specifically for this purpose.
Once you’ve created an account and set it up on TweetAlert, you can use it in two ways. First, you can follow that account with your main identity to keep on top of that topic. This is especially handy if an account on TweetAlert already exists looking for the same thing you are, so you don’t have to set up a new one. I’m more interested in the second use, which is to add the new account you create to your Twitter client of choice. That way, it’s a simple matter of viewing its timeline whenever you want to check your results, all in one place and without any static from your regular account.
Is it a perfect solution? No, but TweetAlert does go out of its way to make sure it isn’t being too spammy. When it retweets the updates it finds, it changes the hashtag to avoid clogging up regular Twitter search results. That means it isn’t particularly pretty to look at, but it could help you catch something important to your work that you would otherwise have missed entirely, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Are you using TweetAlert? Share your thoughts on the service below.