How to: find local Twitter reaction to a national event

twitter search by list

When a national news story breaks and you need local reaction, how do you exclude the national-level updates that dominate all the other coverage? On Twitter there’s a simple answer: search within lists.

Here’s how you do it.

Step 1. Find a list that is limited to the area you are interested in

To search within a list you first need… a list.

Now, most journalists will have already have created a Twitter list for your own patch. You can find that list by:

  1. Going to your Twitter profile and clicking on ‘Lists’, or just adding /lists to the end of your Twitter URL.
  2. Then click on the list whose tweets you want to search within.

The URL should look something like

If you haven’t created a Twitter list already (and now is probably a very good time to start), go off and find one: in this post I explain how to find those lists – as well as how to find relevant accounts to create your own.

Once you have a relevant list, keep it open in your browser and open a new one for your search…

Step 2. Go to Twitter search

Twitter’s search has its own page at, or for more advanced options.

Start typing the word(s) and/or hashtags you want to search for (you can also specify other options in advanced search) – but don’t press Enter or click ‘search’ yet…

Step 3. Add the list: operator

Now add the word list: to your search followed by the username, then a slash, and finally the list name that you want to search within – without any space after the colon – like so:


Notice that this does not have the word ‘lists’ in it, as it does in the list URL.

The full search – including your search criteria – should look something like this:

#bowie list:paulbradshaw/birmingham

Now press enter, or click ‘search’.

Step 4. Specify ‘live’ results, not ‘Top’

Twitter’s search facility defaults to ‘top’ results. That means that you will still get results from outside of your list at the top of your results.

To avoid this, click on the ‘Live’ tab to switch to a view which orders results most-recent first.

You can also specify only those updates with ‘Photos’ or ‘Videos’ in that list, but ‘Accounts’ results will not be limited to the list.

twitter search by list

Bonus step: use Tweetdeck to limit further

Tweetdeck offers the ability to further filter search results based on some of the following:

  • Tweets with certain levels of engagement such as retweets, likes or replies
  • Tweets by verified users
  • Excluding retweets

To do this, log into Tweetdeck and conduct the same search as before, but when the results appear look for the three filters above the results.

tweetdeck advanced search

You can use these filters as follows:

Expanding the Content filter gives you the option to only show tweets with certain media (images, video, GIFs, Vines, links), but it also allows you to specify that retweets be excluded.

tweetdeck retweets excluded

The next filter, Users, allows you to narrow results to verified users. If you’re interested in local celebrities and big organisations then it is worth selecting that.

tweetdeck users filter

You’ll notice you can also use this to select members of a list, so this is a quick way of searching within a list from the start. However, you cannot select both, so using the list: operator as detailed above is still worth knowing.

The third filter relates to Engagement, and allows you to set a threshold that limits search results based on the number of retweets, likes, and/or replies (note that you can combine these: for example, at least one of each).

tweetdeck engagement filter

Again, if you have too many results and want to narrow down to those which ‘chimed’ most with users who responded in one of the ways above, then this is useful.

Not just for local patches

Of course you can use the technique above for any sort of list: a list of celebrities, football players, politicians, people working in health or education or finance. In other words, it can be a subject patch just as much as a geographical one.

Keep it ethical

Of course just because someone posts something in public it doesn’t mean they are happy for it to be presented to an audience of thousands or tens of thousands, so always seek permission if you can to reproduce a tweet.

Do you have any other tips for finding local reaction on social media?


5 thoughts on “How to: find local Twitter reaction to a national event

  1. carolinam123

    Hi, Perhaps include a note on for asking permission for tweets. Often including tweets in stories is find but for a few folks, exposing them to online harassment from a publication’s following is too much to handle.

    Someone may say users should opt to use private accounts not public. The idea that all things online is public and totally free for anyone to use within their content seems dangerous.

    When getting photos for journalistic purposes, I ask for a subjects name. I think it’s common practice when getting quotes from people on the street, reaction quotes, to ask them and tell them it may be used within a story.

    A simple tweet or DM or heads may suffice, too.

    This blog is helpful for finding some loca context/feel I understand the point isn’t whether you should or shouldn’t embed or ask permission, but it’s still good to remind people to refer to their publication’s policies or simply to ask themselves and users.

  2. Pingback: How to find ‘feeds for leads’ as a journalist | Online Journalism Blog

  3. Pingback: The most-read posts on Online Journalism Blog — and on Medium — in 2016 | Online Journalism Blog

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