TJ Kelly

Twitter Search: How to Find Customers on Twitter

The Twitter search engine is underrated and under-utilized. You can find Tweets from friends, businesses… and potential customers.

By searching for topic keywords or hashtags, you can follow live conversations about the products and topics your customers are already talking about.


Search Twitter like a pro

The beauty of Twitter’s search is in its operators and advanced options. They’re key to any digital marketing strategy.

The various Twitter applications, especially smartphone apps, have slightly different methods of searching Twitter, but the general ideas are the same.

Twitter Search (2): Advanced Search.

This is only the first few options. The rest are here.

There are dozens of advanced options to focus your search query onto exactly the people and words you’re looking for.

It’s even easier with operators.

If you’re a real pro, you’ll want to use operators to search even faster. Google uses operators too, so you should already know how to use these.

Twitter Search (4): Operators.

This is just the first few operators. The rest are here.

Obviously Twitter’s search operators are little different than Google’s because they can include things like hashtags, but they’re close.


How to dominate Twitter Search

Let’s say you’ve got a real estate client.

Maybe your client is on the lookout for folks dealing with a home inspection. No one gets a home inspection unless they’re buying a house.

Here’s how you can search Twitter to find those people:


“home inspection” near:”Boston, MA”


“home inspection”

Put the search term in quotes so you get exact match. Adjust this as necessary to account for typos and other variations.

near:”Boston, MA”

This one is huge. Take advantage of Twitter’s geo-targeting. Google can’t do this, so it’s one huge advantage of searching Twitter. You can even set a radius by adding within:50mi to your search (or 10mi, 20mi, etc).

Strip out people sharing links. There’s a good chance that if Joe and Mary Jonesington are scheduling a home inspection, they’re not linking to their blog to do it. Anyone tweeting home inspection links is probably a vendor.


The Results

Submit that search query and you’ll instantly see a list of people who are talking about your client’s industry. Obviously you’ll have to change this to fit your industry.

Here’s what the list of results looks like:

Twitter Search (6): Results.

You can even look for unhappy customers.

Add emotion operators to the query, like :) and :(, and Twitter will algorithmically show you tweets that have the appropriate tone.

Imagine how powerful that is!

You can find people who:

  • Are within 20 miles of you
  • Are talking about your industry
  • Are unhappy about something in your industry
  • Are tech savvy enough to voice their opinion on Twitter

That’s an absolute goldmine for potential leads and business connections.


Twitter search people by location

You want customers. Customer are people. You need to search for people.

All the blogs and writeups out there talk about using Twitter search for natural language or to “join the conversation.”

And that’s great.

But look at Google’s LSI searches:

Twitter Search (7): LSI.

See the patterns in there?

  • Twitter search people
  • Twitter search friends
  • Twitter user search
  • Twitter search people by location

People are searching on Google for information on how to search on Twitter to find people.

Obviously there’s a demand for this.

(I wrote about Google vs. Twitter way back when. And also about Twitter and SEO. My, how times have changed.)

So how do you do it?

The easy way is to use the operators or advanced search above and just search for their username. But remember that the Twitter Search only looks at tweets, not at user profiles.

That means that you can’t use search to look someone up by their email address.

You can use an API for that, but that’s a whole different blog post.

What if I don’t know their username?

Of course you don’t. If you did, you wouldn’t need to search around for them.

That means the the tool isn’t the problem here. It’s how you want to use it.

The answer: find people by what they say, not who they are.

Once you frame the search that way, it puts it right back in the middle of Twitter Search’s wheelhouse.


Extending Twitter Search

I got excited when I found this, but it may be a flop:

Someone built a Google Custom Search Engine to search Twitter.

I don’t know who built it but it doesn’t look very reliable.

I ran the same search from above and got this:

Twitter Search (8): Google Custom Search.

I got excited about because of the recent Google/Twitter deal that launched a few months ago. I was hoping this CSE would be a more focused way to use Google’s search capabilities on Twitter’s data.

But there’s good news.

As Google rolls out more Twitter data in their SERPS, it should get easier and easier to use Google’s search engine in all its glory to access Twitter data in all its people-finding goodness.

And lastly:

There’s even a Python library on GitHub for nerds who want to use Twitter’s Search API for who knows why.

Maybe it’s for that search-by-email-address thing.

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