How to Listen on Twitter

To find true value in social media, one must listen. The way that you listen is by searching.

I find the number of people who don’t ever search on Twitter astonishing. They just consume the content in their feed then eventually fade out of the social network altogether because they think it is a waste of time. If that has been the case for you, then I agree – you are wasting your time.

If I consumed content on Twitter the same way I do on Facebook I would be completely wasting my time. Twitter is a sea of conversations and the only way to make it worth your time is by learning how to filter through the jargon and find the people and conversations that matter to you.

When you start mining the real-time stream of information on Twitter, you will be shocked at what you learn.

To get started, I recommend these two articles:

  1. The Ultimate Guide to Twitter Advanced Search
  2. How to Use Twitter Advanced Search Queries for Leads

Once you have read through these articles and taken some notes, go directly to and seek out the subject matter that interests you. Find the keywords and hashtags of the content you care about. Who’s talking about your area of expertise? Who is leading the discussion? Who is this subject’s champion? Can’t find one? Great, that person can be you!

Pay close attention to all of Twitter’s Search Operators. This is how I filter a search to conversations happening in my county about the subjects I care about. If someone is talking about 4-H, I want to know about it so I can join the conversation. If someone is asking a question about how to use a certain technology I know, I want to be able to help that person find a solution.

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Once you’ve entered an advanced search with keywords, hashtags and/or geo location filters, save it! You don’t want to have to go back and enter it in each time you pull up Twitter on your phone or laptop. Twitter’s Saved Searches are such a time saver for me. This is how I use Twitter. I only consume content through my saved searches that are based on search operators, hashtags, and lists (‘Lists’ are a way for you to curate content from a specific list of people – like, for instance a Personal Learning Network). Full Disclosure: I will explore Twitter’s top 10 trends, I just like to know what’s going on in the world sometimes.

I encourage you to learn more about Twitter’s best practices so can get a higher return on the time you spend on social media.

3 Replies to “How to Listen on Twitter”

  1. Paul, this is something I didn’t know about, as I’m still relatively new to twitter, so thanks, first of all. How have you found the best hashtags for your work (either to search or to use)? Is there a sweet spot of a hashtag that is active enough but not overwhelming that you look for? Or is it sort of a trial-and-error much like a keyword search for research literature?

    1. You are welcome Katie! I have found hashtags several ways 1. By following “influencers” in the knowledge areas I’m interested in and seeing what hashtags they use, 2.Clicking on those hashtags and looking at the profiles of the people using them – to see if they’re legit, and 3. Searching sites like sprout,,,, and It’s really just a discovery process for how people are categorizing their conversations.

  2. I was watching TWIT and @jonobacon mentioned using kiwi irc for a Google Hangout on air ( to embed code and then ” freenode ” to have your Twitter feed run under your Hangout – Do you have experience using it?

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