search twitter using boolean logic

Today’s tip is one of those ideas that seems obvious when you think about it, but many seem to overlook. While information professionals know to use boolean logic and nested parenthesis in formal databases, many have not thought to apply the same logic to social media sites or specialised search engines.

Case in point: Twitter!

Sure, you can search for a specific hashtag or user, but you can also combine these things together in complex ways. Let’s look at a few examples…

Example 1: Job searching

I’ve found complex twitter searching to be particularly useful when looking for vacant job postings (for myself and for others). Let’s say you’re looking for a position in the sustainability or environmental sector.

(sustainability OR environment OR environmental OR renewable OR clean OR energy) AND (#job OR #jobs OR #UKjobs OR recruit OR recruiting OR join OR vacant OR vacancy OR apply OR join)

See results of the search above here. 

From here, you can further narrow down your search to local jobs by clicking “near me” from the dropdown menu or include keywords for the locations you are interested in as a separate concept.

Example 2: I saw that thing on that feed but now I can’t find it!

Have you ever tried to find something on Twitter, and just scrolled continuously through a user’s tweets hoping that it will miraculously surface? Yeah, me neither…..

 

One way to find this elusive information is to use keywords in the search box along with a username. For example, maybe I remember some cool story about archival research in newspapers at Library of Congress.

@librarycongress newspapers

This search will find instances where Library of Congress has tweeted or have been mentioned in a tweet using the term newspapers:

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-7-44-05-pm
Twitter search for “@librarycongress newspapers”

 

The above can also be nested within boolean logic and parenthesis.

Twitter, of course, wasn’t build for expert searching, so it’s far from a perfect interface. Some of the downsides include:

  • No truncation options
  • It’s difficult – if not impossible – to search systematically. Since Twitter is a proprietary platform and not necessarily transparent about the way its search interface works, it’s difficult to know exactly how it interprets your logic.
  • There’s no native ability to download results (although it can be accomplished through 3rd party programs).

Have you used Twitter for expert searching? Share your tips in the comments below, or contact me.

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