Every once in a while I lose one of my tweets.
And every so often, somebody will ask me about a tweet I published a while ago; typically it will be something I submitted earlier that day, but it might be a week ago, or even longer. That’s a lot of tweets.
This was the tweet we were looking for. I knew I wrote it, they knew I wrote it, and I desperately wanted to be able to find it and re-share that great content. If you tweet as much as I do, it can take hours to go back through your timeline to try and find a single submission. Forgot the haystack; this is like a needle in a stack full of needles.
Alternatively, I can make things real easy on myself, and search for it. I knew the tweet we were after was Gmail and Google Labs-related, but how to find it? What keywords should I use?
There are two simple but effective ways to do this.
1. Use Twitter Search
Twitter promised us a greater centralisation of the Twitter search tool within profiles but thus far that hasn’t happened. It should be on the top of everybody’s home page on the network, clearly visible and strapped on to a ‘how to use’ two-minute video.
It’s a shame, as their search feature is still the single-greatest resource on the network. It’s incredibly easy to use and if you know how to term your queries, extremely efficient.
In this case, as said, I knew I was after something to do with Gmail and Google Labs. I know the way I tend to word submissions, so that makes it easier when I’m trying to search for things I’ve said. All it takes is a moment inside my head, thinking about how I would phrase that tweet if I was writing it now.
In the search box, I would enter:
sheamus gmail labs
This produces this result. The query returned two possible solutions at the time of my search, and has since added one extra one where I explained how I tracked the tweet on Google (see below). So, I would have to determine which of these two tweets my enquirer was looking for. In this case it was the first one. Problem solved.
2. Use Google
This is, perhaps surprisingly, my preferred method. This is partly out of habit, but also because I use Google Chrome, and so a Google search is always conveniently there in my URL bar. Additionally, Google’s search algorithm is so polished that if often gives me the results I want even if my query isn’t as specific as it might be.
This is how I located that tweet yesterday. In the search box I simply entered:
twitter sheamus gmail labs
It produced this result. You’ll see my Twitter profile is at the very top. Now, the problem here is if I click on that link, Google will push directly to my profile as it is right now, which may not contain the data that we’re looking if the tweet was posted a while ago.
This is where Google’s cached pages feature comes in very handy. See that link marked ‘Cached’ just below the description? Click on that, and Google will open the saved page with the tweets we’re looking for. There’s quite a few on the screen, but by scrolling down (or doing a page search with CTRL+F in the browser and entering ‘gmail’ or ‘labs’) I can easily see that the tweet I want is five from the bottom.
Problem solved, I then re-shared that tweet with my friend, and all was well.
Never Lose A Tweet Again
Of course, while either of these options are a great way to track down your own tweets, they’re also a super-efficient option for finding anything on Twitter, too. The secret is to try and get inside the head of the person you’re searching for; if you’re at all familiar with the way they word things, it shouldn’t be difficult at all.
My best advice is to always start with Twitter’s internal search, and if that fails, move on to Google, which is often a little kinder to what can sometimes be fairly vague queries. Moreover, the results you see from your first attempts at a search, even if they don’t return the data you required, can often trigger a connection in your mind that makes that next search a winner.
And if all else fails, simply ask the hive mind.
(The image used is modified from an original design by Chris Wallace.)