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:
- Going to your Twitter profile and clicking on ‘Lists’, or just adding /lists to the end of your Twitter URL.
- Then click on the list whose tweets you want to search within.
The URL should look something like twitter.com/yourusername/lists/yourlistname.
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.