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Replacing Google Alerts with Twitter Searches

Now that Google has discontinued the ability to receive Google alerts as an RSS feed, the search is on for alternatives.  We have been using Talkwalker as a direct substitute, see our post about Moving to Talkwalker.

Another alternative is to use Twitter as an ‘alert’ mechanism.  In fact, in many ways Twitter can be a better alert source than Google Alerts were.  

Twitter is the most popular curation site on the internet.  Almost any site that publishes content also sends a tweet whenever a new article is published.  One of the most common uses of Twitter is to share ‘found’ content with your followers.  In 2010 over 25% of tweets had a link in them and I’m sure that number has grown.

How Twitter Searches Work in MyCurator

If you’ve ever used the Search bar at twitter.com, or you use a tool like Hootsuite, you’ve seen that you can find tweets that have specific keywords and/or hashtags within them.  You will also notice that many of these tweets have an embedded link.  When you click on the link, you can see the full article.

This is exactly what MyCurator does in the background throughout the day.  It finds tweets that meet your search criteria, then follows the embedded links and if the article matches your Topic filters, it is posted to your Training  page.  If your Topic is using the Relevance capability of MyCurator, your training on that Topic will be applied to the articles, and they will be classified as Good, Bad or Not Sure just like any other.  You can also use these articles to train MyCurator.

To set up a Twitter Search, click on the Sources menu item in MyCurator.  Now click on the link above the list of sources that reads “Click Here to Add a Google Alert, Google News, Twitter Search or Bing Search to your Sources”.  Click the Twitter Search Source radio button, then give this search a title.  Now enter your search keywords.  You can use a hashtag, or you can use regular words.  You can also use phrases in quotes to make sure the whole phrase is found together.  You can precede a twitter username with the @ sign (such as @mycurator) and all of their tweets will be processed.  Each tweet will be checked for the keywords and if found, any embedded article links will be processed.

Finally, you assign this feed to a Source Group like any other feed (you can create a new one here too).  Any Topic that uses this Source Group will now also read and process your Twitter Search results.

Note: You must first create a Twitter App and enter the consumer keys into the Twitter tab in the MyCurator Options menu.  See our Twitter API documentation for details.

Tips for Using Twitter Searches

The most important tip in using Twitter searches is that any keywords that you enter into the search field must be found within the 140 or less characters of the tweet.  Because of this it is best to:

  • Use broad keywords that cover your topic in general.  
  • Using several keywords, without quoting as a phrase, are treated as OR, so you will have a better chance of matching on one of them
  • Using phrases will be restrictive as all of the words must appear as you entered them.
  • Popular hashtags work well as the tweets are ‘pre-filtered’ by the sender to be on topic.
  • Following a specific twitter user can be a great way to find authoritative, quality content if the person is viewed as an authority in your field (and they are prolific at tweeting!).

With MyCurator, you have a second level of filtering as well as classification through your training.  Use this to your advantage, creating a very broad Twitter search and then let MyCurator narrow down the results to those that fit your niche.

With the new Twitter API, we can add features to your searches such as finding the most popular tweets, letting you retrieve a certain amount of tweets and handling re-tweets.  We’ll be updating MyCurator with these features in the future.  If you have any ideas about what we might add to our Twitter searches, please Contact Us with a message.

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