Twitter advanced search helps journalists find sources

by March 18, 2010

Journalists can’t avoid hearing about the benefits of using Twitter and other social media tools … whether they believe them or not.

Twitter and hashtags business Well, the advanced search tool on Twitter may just help make believers of journalists hoping to find local sources for stories.


This first image shows a simple search window that appears under the bio section of Twitter pages.

(Click on the images to see a larger version.)

You can type in a key word and Twitter will search for Tweets with that key word in the body of the Tweet .. the content.

That can show you what people all over Twitter are saying about that word. In this illustration, it shows us what people this afternoon are saying about #SABEW, which is a hashtag being used for the SABEW 2010 convention.


Hashtags are easy ways to filter for a theme and a way for the author to say, ‘Hey, I want to join the conversation about this topic too.”

Twitter advanced search

In this case the topic is #SABEW.

This second image shows a search field is not as easy to find. You have to go to

You can do the same search as above in the window on this page, but for a more in-depth search, hit the “ADVANCED SEARCH” link.


Advanced search allows you to add some parameters.

  • You can include additional key words.
  • You can exclude words or phrases.
  • You can search the Tweets of specific people.
  • You can search Tweets written during a specific time period.

And perhaps most cool for journalists, you can search Tweets from people who are withing a certain location.

On Labor Day weekend 2009, Chick-fil-A held a national promotion, giving away a chicken sandwich to any customer who showed up in a store wearing a sports jersey.

I searched for any Tweets containing the parameters:Twitter search for Chick-fil-A

  • Words: Chick-fil-A
  • Places: within 50 miles of Dallas.

This final image shows the results of that search.

Within 50 miles of Dallas, these people were Tweeting about Chick-fil-A.

I did not edit this page at all.  Didn’t need to splice together Tweets for a good illustration.


In this one quick search, I came up with several people worth talking to if you had drawn the Chick-fil-A promotion story during a slow Labor Day weekend.

Take a look:

There is a customer fighting the urge to put on his Auburn shirt and head out for a free sandwich.

Twitter advanced search contactsAn employee talks about her tough day after the crazy busy promotion

Another Tweet talks about Chick-fil-A’s customer service.

And a fourth person is asking a friend if he or she had gone to the store of a freebie.

Check out their bios and you have enough information to track each of them down if you needed to find some quotes.

This is not investigative journalism, but it is an illustration of how well the Advance Search can help you find new sources.  Find people you normally wouldn’t run across.

And, most importantly, find out what people are saying, RIGHT NOW and RIGHT HERE.

Want the best tips and story ideas from the Reynolds Center in your mailbox every month? Sign up for our monthly newsletter!