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Discovering and Listening to Conversations in Twitter

We all know Twitter is an essential example of the conversations that help define Social Media. What if we could find the conversations that were important to us, even if we don’t follow the people engaged in those conversations? I think it would transform one of the hottest conversation-based communities on the Web into a goldmine of information and and catalyst for forging new relationships.

In August 2007, I wrote about a public discussion including Chris Messina, Stowe Boyd, and myself on the value of creating channels within Twitter. Its an important discussion because Twitter was and still is representative of a powerful form of emerging media – but it’s missing something.

Twitter leads the way for other forms of MicroMedia and represents a white hot medium for connecting people in a way that no one would ever believe possible.

Along with its growth and continued rise in global popularity, the noise level in Twitter is also deafening.

But up until recently, the conversations taking place on Twitter was progressive yet finite. While some discussions thread into brilliant movements, most vanish into the history books…except in this case, there aren’t any history books per se.

In the world of Social Media, listening to online conversations is the keystone to genuine participation. What if you could find the discussions that were important to you?

There are now several ways to find relevant topics and join productive conversations on Twitter. This is especially important, if you are a representative for a company and/or brand seeking solutions for effectively listening to the community in order to help them answer questions or provide them with useful information.


Suddenly the most powerful form of MicroMedia is now taggable and searchable and allows Twitter users to create channels or topic streams similar to the functionality that has existed in Jaiku for over a year – although at the moment, Jaiku’s channel product is much more elegant and friendly.

The whole idea here is that you can tag your tweets in a way that they’re discoverable by those who seek similar content. Remember though, you have only 140 characters to make an impact.

Hashtags require you to include “#” in front of any keyword that you wish to index. For example, if I’m writing about #hashtags in Twitter, I would simply type: “Writing about #hashtags for and#pr2.0.”

In order to have your hashtags indexed, you have to add the hashtags bot, @hashtags, to their twitter account.

Tags need to be one word for now. So for example, instead of tagging #brian+solis or #brian_solis, it’s simply #briansolis. To search it for relevant tags, bookmark Continuing the example, to search briansolis, the URL would look like this, and the result:

Twemes, at the moment, is a friendlier solution for searching tags.

You can also search by the most popular tags, recently added, or monitor the river of every tag.

However, the community is split on whether or not #hashtags will take off and enjoy mass adoption. Many enthusiasts have expressed distaste to its aesthetic pollution to the Twitter stream, instead of seeing the contribution to the legacy of topics, channels, and keywords. At the very least, those you use hashtags should be strategic and thoughtful in what they choose to tag.

Chris Messina dives deeper into Hashtags here.

Twitter is also searchable outside of the world of #hashtags, which also substantially increases the value of content contained in the Twittersphere as it brings past tweets back to life.

Enter Tweet Scan, a basic search tool that operates similar to how you would naturally search in Yahoo or Google.

For example, if you’re searching for tweets related to Perez Hilton, simply type “perez hilton” into the search window and peruse through the tweets as you would via traditional search results. In this case, we see that Perez has some breaking news on Britney Spears via (an aggregated channel for entertainment and celebrity gossip and news produced by TechMeme’s Gabe Rivera.)

Twitter is now an even more powerful and important tool in the realm of Social Media in order to participate and listen to the online conversations that are important to you.

New services such as hashtags, Twemes and Tweet Scan empower us to shift from the typical broadcast mentality and limited group discussions to a rich conversational stream.

More about online conversations at ZDNet.

More tools for listening can be found at ReadWriteWeb.

Jeff Nolan on Twitter Analytics.

Connect with me on Twitter, Jaiku, LinkedIn, Pownce, Plaxo, FriendFeed, or Facebook.

11 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Discovering and Listening to Conversations in Twitter”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Oh god. Shut up. How can PR just be learning of these tools? Look, you guys ruined MySpace and are currently in the process of destroying Facebook. LEAVE TWITTER ALONE!!!!

  2. Brian Solis says:

    Thanks anonymous for your valuable feedback. I can’t disagree that some PR people can pollute online communities. But the point here is about listening and adding value. Dell is a great example of how they help people by listening. If intent is value-driven, then I don’t see how this could be anything other than helpful.

  3. Andy Sternberg says:

    This is a great guide, Brian.

    I recently began following @twitgeistr which delivers the top 10 words used in Twitter each hour. A fun way to keep up with discussion topics in real time.

    The TwitStat site, which hosts @twitgeistr has even more goodies.

  4. Michael Brito says:

    Hey Brian – excellent post. I couldn’t agree with you more about the value of listening.

    But seriously, other than people like you and I and other social media and technical personalities, who really uses twitter?

    Would a company like Coca Cola or the Gap find value in such tools? I would say no, not yet at least.

  5. Sherrilynne Starkie says:

    Brian, thanks for this excellent post. I learned a lot from it.

  6. Lisa Wilberding says:

    Good information Brian. As I’m still trying to understand the benefits of Twitter as a social media professional, this sheds some light.

    Quick note, you are missing the second “h” in your URL link to

  7. Tom Baker says:

    I think people have to be very careful about not jumping on the next thing as if it were the next big thing. Going from MySpace to Facebook to Twitter to… will only lessen the extent to which those who hold the purse strings will take social media seriously as a marketing tool. Twitter may prove to be a very useful tool but until it can be determined exactly how it should be used I am wary of the hype. However, I agree completely that anything that allows a firm to listen to its customers is good!

  8. capobecchino says:

    Why you don’t try

    We develop the microblogging with channels (tags) and various memes (post) …

    In this days we work on API and IM presence …

    We are interested to your feedback, or idea, or suggest … or Criticism 🙂

    Thanks 🙂

  9. Monika Maeckle says:

    Thanks for the tutorial, Brian. Like many, am still debating if Twitter’s worth the time gobble.


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