Setting Up A Listening Post on Twitter
I -love- Twitter. I’ve been a user for nearly 14 years at this point, and it’s the one social media network I’ve always had with me in my adult life. Being an ‘early adopter’ of Twitter, I’ve had lots of time to figure out some of the best practices and methods for cutting through the firehose of content that a good Twitter feed brings. And while Twitter is useful for many things, having a “Listening Post” set up is one of the most crucial things you can do for your topics of interest.
The term “listening post” harkens back to wartime and military usage. Communication officers would set up literal posts with electronic surveillance equipment to eavesdrop on enemy communications. This would give them tactical advantages since they knew what the opposition was up to.
A social media listening post does something similar – we’re setting up ways that we can intercept certain communications on different platforms. And, thanks to Twitter’s amazing search functionality, we can get super-specific in what content we’re looking for.
The Right Tools for a Listening Post
There are a myriad of ‘social media dashboards’ and services that you can pay for to get a Twitter ‘command center’ going. Personally, there’s one app that I keep going back to: Tweetdeck. Acquired by Twitter in the early teens (10s), Tweetdeck is a column-based dashboard for your Twitter browsing.
I’ve been using it since before it became an official Twitter product, and the layout and content of columns I use has changed over the years. The overall objective is the same, though: columns that show searches of specific topics and/or people I’m interested in.
Here’s a basic look at my columns:
- 1) Normal feed+: I have my normal Twitter feed stripped of all straight-up retweets. This lets me see content written by people I follow, vs just curated content from others I don’t.
- 2) Notifications: any retweets, likes, and replies.
- 3) Direct Messages (moved from above screenshot): Any private conversations with users go here.
- 4) Friends List: A curated list of people I follow that I care about. This way, I can keep personal relationships up because (honestly) I’m really bad at it otherwise.
- 5) Normal Feed: My ACTUAL normal feed (with retweets) so I can see what other content people are curating.
- 6 Onward): This is the true ‘listening post’ piece of my Tweetdeck, and what we’ll be talking about from here on out.
Tweetdeck Search Columns
Twitter’s search is a LOT more robust than most people expect. Twitter’s search parameters work on Boolean search paramters. A Boolean Search is logic-based using keywords and “operators” – ways to modify the original search.
Here are a few examples:
- Boots AND Cats: A Twitter search with content containing both keywords. Useful if you need to find specific content with multiple topics that are required to be there.
- Boots OR Cats: A Twitter search with content containing either the phrase Boots or Cats. Useful for searching for multiple topics or variations on a theme.
- Boots NOT Shoes: A way to exclude terms specifically from the search. Good if you have a more generic term that is a brand name or known in other circles in a different context.
- “Quoted Content”: Enclosing the search term in quotes means you get the exact phrasing. Good if you need a very specific term that is more than one word long.
For me, specifically, here are some of my favorite searches:
- #FFXIV AND #Twitch: For looking for new Twitch Streamers to follow that play Final Fantasy XIV
- (“Call for Speakers” OR “Speaker Submission”) AND (“Web Design” OR “Web Development” OR “Marketing” OR “Social Media” OR “Content Creation” OR “Community Building”): I know this looks like a LOT, and it introduces a new operator in parentheses, but this is my ‘speaking submission’ search filter. It lets me look for virtual or in-person conferences that are looking for speaker submissions in the various topics that I’m into.
- I have another column similar one to above, but with different topics. Having similar, but different, columns lets me tailor the responses I see very specifically.
How Can Content Creators Utilize a Twitter Listening Post?
If you are a content creator, it’s worthwhile to set up a listening post on various topics you’re interested in. A few specific examples:
- Hashtag Searches: Having hashtag search columns means you can follow multiple (or similar) hashtags and see content related to that topic. It could be a game you make content for, a subject you are familiar with, or even a specific person who engages with that topic.
- Twitter Lists: Putting people into a list means you have a one-stop shop for specific Twitter users and their content. If you have several users that talk about a certain topic – or users that you want to make sure to not miss – using a List column is a great way to ensure their content is at the top of your mind.
- Removing Retweets: Sometimes, I just want to see what people are writing, not what content they are passing along. And, since this includes quoted content, I can still see relevant other information – with their personal touches added.