Searching For Old Tweets? Try This Out

Twitter is a great communications and engagement tool; however, its search application stinks!  If you subscribe to the business model where Twitter will sell old tweets from users to DataSift, then it will make sense that Twitter is locking away old tweets that will not appear on its search result listings.  This notion was reinforced when I was trying to dig up tweets last week regarding Rogers Canada’s hashtag campaign executed last month on March 16th, 2012. (Please read: Rogers Social Media Campaign Backfires, Consumers Take to Twitter to Diss Telco)

Figure 1 is a screen capture of the last portion of search results for “#Rogers1Number” from a query on Twitter.

Figure 1: Last portion of search results for "#Rogers1Number"

Upon reading the statement, “Older Tweet results for #Rogers1Number are unavailable”, my competitive intelligence researcher instincts kicked in and I knew that there had to be another way to get at more archived tweets on Twitter.

My first hunch was to use an advanced search on Google using the site: function and specify the date range (i.e., March 16, 2012).  Figure 2 is a screen capture of the results for the query, “#Rogers1Number” and the Custom Date Range (i.e., 3/16/2012).

Figure 2: Results For "#Rogers1Number" W/ Date Range (March 16th, 2012)

One lousy result? On a day that Rogers clients were teeing off on the telecommunications giant?  Impossible. There had to be more tweets available.

After testing a handful of search tools that gave me limited amount of tweets (i.e. 15-20), I stumbled upon a Google Custom Search for Twitter.  I was dumbfounded to see the amount of results that I received from the search application as seen in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Results For "#Rogers1Number From Google Custom Search For Twitter

This particular search platform provides an incredible 764 hits (as of April 6th, 2012).

Great; however,  there is a small issue in terms of sorting the results by date.  Here is where it gets a little tricky.  Without an user interface to easily sort the hits, I had to type in the date range syntax that Google uses to present its results.  To do so, I had to use a Julian Date converter as suggested in the post, “6 Ways To Search ‘By Date’ On Google“  to input the Julian Date for March 16th, 2012 and March 17th, 2012.  Figure 4 provides a sample of results where “#Rogers1Number” and the Julian Dates, 2455562.500000 and 2455562.500000 are enter in the search box as: “#Rogers1Number daterange:2455562.500000-2455562.500000″.

Figure 4: Sample of Results For "#Rogers1Number" W/ The Julian Dates

Using the daterange: function provides 120 results as of April 6th, 2012 where the hits are composed of individual tweets and Twitter feeds where the keyword (i.e., #Rogers1Number) appear.  Figure 5 and Figure 6 provides examples of the results.

Figure 5: Single Tweet Found With Google Custom Search W/ Date Range

Figure 6: Tweets Found On Individual's Twitter Feed With Google Custom Search W/ Date Range

Time will only tell whether Twitter will block access to their archives of tweets from search tools such as Google.   Until then, online researchers should always try alternative methods to search for content that resides on the micro-blogging server.

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Intelegia is a boutique consulting firm in Montreal, Canada that understands the need to be innovative and strategic in a business landscape that’s evolving at an incredible pace. The firm delivers social media strategies to efficiently engage with stakeholders in economic development, business to business and business to consumer segments. It assists clients by defining and executing sustainable social web strategies that will allow their brand message to stand out in a competitive environment where target audience engagement is a must.

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