social media how toYou’ve likely heard stories about how big companies are using Twitter as a powerful listening tool.   And although Chris Brogan has been telling us to grow bigger ears for a while, what are you actually doing about it?

Do you want to improve your Twitter listening skills? Here’s a closer look at how to monitor your brand, yourself or your competitors using Twitter (and you don’t need to be a big business!).

Why Is Twitter an Ideal Listening Tool?

Here’s why Twitter is one of the best social media platforms for listening:

  • Real-time results. We’ve all heard examples of how breaking news spreads immediately on Twitter. Because of Twitter’s real-time search engine, you can get a quick pulse of public opinion.
  • Wide reach. Twitter is useful to many different types and sizes of businesses.
  • Direct feedback. You hear what people are saying as they say it.

With these points in mind, simply follow these guidelines to grow bionic listening ears.

#1: Decide What You Want to Monitor

Decide which information you want to monitor.  Common types include your brand names, industry keywords, customers and competitors.

A daily listening routine gives you more value over time. Spend the time you need to find the right mix and create a routine that works for you.

# 2:  Find the Best Real-Time Monitoring Tools

Real-time market information is valuable to many businesses today. Here are Nathan Hangen’s suggestions for using Twitter tools. But as professional blogger Ching Ya says, “there’s no such thing as the perfect search tool.” Have a look at Twitter monitoring tools in the decision tree below that Ching Ya put together:

Twitter Monitoring Tools

Twitter Monitoring Tools. Image source:

A good place to start looking for the right people to monitor on Twitter is Twellow.  Also check out Twellowhood for location-based searches.

# 3: Track With URL Shorteners

Use URL shortening tools to monitor the links you share on Twitter and help you find out what’s popular with your audience.

As Jeff Bullas says, the popular URL shortener bit.lyallows you to track how many people are clicking on the shortened link with a set of metrics that displays it in a visual format as well as textually.” This makes it easy to track your important links and monitor the interactions you have on social media.

#4: Follow Hashtags

Hashtags are a simple search tool. People follow hashtags for Keywords, Events and Trending Topics.

You can simply use Twitter search on a hashtag.  You can also go to for statistics.

Found a hashtag, but don’t know what it’s about?  Look it up on What The Hashtag, a user-editable encyclopedia for hashtags.

There are also many tools to help you monitor hashtags such as Monitter and Twitterfall.  Have a look at how John Haydon uses multiple hashtag searches on TweetGrid to make sure he doesn’t miss parts of the conversation relevant to him.

Be sure to watch the above video!

# 5: Monitor Trends When It’s Appropriate

Twitter is the best social media platform for real-time search. If staying current on what’s happening in the world is important to your business, you also need to stay current on the latest tools for monitoring trending topics on Twitter.

Hashtags are also used for trending topics, so the tools you use for hashtags can also help you to monitor trending topics.  In addition to the hashtag tools mentioned above, there are a few other tools to keep in mind when following trends on Twitter:

#6: Use Twitter Lists to Monitor People on Twitter

You might find it convenient to create your own Twitter lists and monitor people through these lists.  Remember, you can set up a private list to follow your competitors and you’ll be the only person to see this private list on your Twitter profile.

You can also set up an RSS feed to follow someone else’s Twitter list using Twitter Lists 2 RSS.

#7: Set Up a Listening Plan

A simple listening plan can involve these simple procedures:

  • Check your keywords on Twitter Search.
  • Sign up for RSS feeds of the search results you need.
  • Sign up for email updates for your most important keyword results using tools such as SocialOomph.

You might lose the edge of real-time search but you’ll find more value in a regular routine. With clear objectives on what you need to monitor and by drilling down to find what you’re looking for, simple monitoring tools can give you great results.

#8: Build Relationships

As Olivier Blanchard says, you’re listening to people, so remember to be human. Listening is the first part of creating real relationships with people and it’s only one part of using social media for your business.  You still need to connect your Twitter listening to other social media activities to cultivate and nurture relationships in social communication.

As you proceed to connect and engage with people on Twitter, here are a few words from Olivier: “Engagement doesn’t have to be a perfectly designed and executed PR program where every bit of interaction is carefully crafted and weighed against all possible outcomes. Let it be a living, breathing, imperfect thing: Wing it a little.”

To develop your bionic ear you’ll need to interact and adapt your approach based on what you learn when listening on Twitter.  Follow these 8 steps to listen more and learn more about the people you want to connect with on Twitter.

What are you doing to develop your Twitter listening skills?  How is it working for you? Please share your comments below.

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  • Great article! I will definitely start using twello

    When i was searching for people to follow, important people in a location i am doing business was most important. I used, thought it was pretty good.

  • I just tried Twellohood, but it doesn’t allow Asia 🙁

  • Ramon De Leon

    I have found to be extremely useful for local Tweet searches by zipcode radius and keywords. You can set up multiple searches at the same time plus pause the stream.

  • Great article! Have shared out to my contacts on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for the great information here at SM Examiner!

  • lBRYANT3386

    Very interesting article. Great advice for new Twitter users and veterans alike. Especially like the flow chart!

  • H Michael, I’ve used Twitter Grader a lot too. It seems that some tools are better for different keywords… and you just need to spend time to find out which tools work the best for you.

  • Thanks for sharing this Michael. I wonder which tools work best in Asia then…?

  • Ramon, I really like Monitter too. This might even be my favorite one when I feel like using this sort of tool.

  • Hi Libby, thanks for sharing and for stopping by to comment here!

  • Yes, Ching Ya did a great job with the flow chart. There are so many different Twitter tools out there, it can be confusing to find the right one.

  • Another Great article Cindy.

    I love when you teach the principles of Twitter. This is brilliant examples on how you simple can monitor Twitter. Nice to see that you used our friend Ching Ya excellent flow chart here. And and also big fan of both Nathan and John. Both provide great value…

    As you say there are so many different and great tools out there, so it can be a bit confusing sometimes. And with Internet things evolves and change so fast, so what you write about today might have totally changed tomorrow or maybe be gone.

    Cheers.. Are

  • some great thoughts here. I work with contact centres trying to improve their effectiveness and much of this advice will be applicable to that arena.

  • Maxiosearch

    Great article Cindy,

    There is not much more to say after such a complete overview! Twitter is definitely one of the most dynamics tools to go about market research these days and knowing how to optimize your work on it and with the help of web based apps is the key to a better performance, save time and money.

    I invite you and all the readers here on Social Media Examinar to join the conversations on about Twitter (50+ on ) and its benefits for startups and small business owners.

    I will follow you on Twitter!

  • Hi Are, it’s true the tools change so quickly. I think Ching Ya’s flow chart helps us to remember to stay focused on why we’re using the tools in the first place.

  • Hi Nik, I’m glad you can use this 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing the link!

  • Excellent point Cindy, that is one of the main thing I also focus in my approach.

    Cheers.. Are

  • Hey Ramon – Really appreciate you adding your insights here. – Mike

  • A complete, detailed monitoring plan that applicable to all. I love how you arranged planning –> strategies and not forgetting the networking value as well. Good job, Cindy, impressed with your knowledge base and sincerity to provide valuable info to your audiences.

    Thank you so much for sharing the Twitter Apps Mind-Map, truly an honor to be mentioned along with John & Nathan.

    Social/Blogging Tracker

  • Chris Pontine

    I find Twitter search quite a handy tool to see what is going on by keyword. Allows you to jump right in and get in on the discussion if needed.

  • Thank you for sharing your Twitter flow chart Ching Ya!

  • Hi Chris, thanks for sharing. I often reach for Twitter Search first too.

  • Thanks Cindy & Ching Ya.

    Tweetminer simple tools that allow you to pull in all sorts of feeds, follows and searches to one spot, then drag any that are relevant to your niche/followers, into a ‘Bucket’, which can then be automated to trickle it out daily, weekly, monthly… hourly, set times etc.

    *Disclosure: above an affiliate (advocate!) link. Feel free not to use.

    Good video demo’s too.

  • I’ve seen so many annoying posts about twitter tips and use, often obvious and aimed at total beginners.
    Yours is extremely relevant, just technical enough, and well written. Kudos.

  • Thanks Danny! It’s not always easy to write for a broad audience.

  • Thanks for the great post. I usually use Twitter search but I will definitely try out some of your suggestions. Thanks!

  • hi brother i see your page this is a good site, any one flow there idea ok.

  • Jeff

    Really surprised you didn’t mention Sesmics web based twitter tool.

  • Good info here and I would add — Tweet good content! The more helpful you are to your followers, the more likely they are to reTweet your comments and expose you to more potential followers.


  • daveblack

    Great list Cindy, thanks for sharing!

    Twitter should be the main tool for every existing business with an online presence (or not). If you’re not online yet with a blog or a site for your business you can just use Twitter to research what your customers are saying about you, your product/service, who they feel when going there and even more. You being able to take inmediate action on that is a great advantage. Take Cindy’s advices and start doing it, because otherwise you are just wasting your time and loosing customers and more sales!

  • Peter Sabbagh

    All good recommendations – you may want to suggest social media metrics, there are companies such as MemCatch that have metrics (and other social media tools) to show how popular your piece of information is after it has been shared. With metrics, you can see which digital sites are producing the most value for your efforts based on the content you share on them. This is a great way to monitor your productivity in a personal forum, or for professional social media campaign.

  • Great article! Just as an FYI, is now deceased. :-[ RIP

  • Thanks for sharing this….I was looking for such tools only..Thanks again 🙂

  • Teri Lauda

    Excellent, extremely good article. Thanks loved the graph.

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