We have a love/hate relationship with Twitter. It’s a journalistic necessity, a prime source for stories both breaking and obscure, an infinite time-suck and a wasteland for antisocial malcontents, failed comedians and partisan political junkies.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the Twitter experience is an inability to use it effectively for research purposes since searches always highlight the most recent and most popular tweets. No more. Topsy‘s recent creation of a comprehensive Twitter archive containing every single tweet sent since the service debuted in 2006 gives PR pros an invaluable research tool.
“425 billion tweets, videos, images, blog posts, and pins” constitutes a whole hell of a lot of information, and with these updates the service promises to more effectively help you separate signal from noise.
Here are the ways to use Topsy’s new index effectively. You can:
- More effectively track client and agency mentions: Topsy was great for this before, but until the upgrade it only indexed tweets from 2010 to the present. Reminding journalists of earlier stories involving your clients can add credibility to your pitch.
- Research discussions on relevant topics: Since Topsy lists searches by number of tweets on given topics as well as most influential individual tweets, you can more effectively trace the development of related conversations.
- Find the earliest tweets by a user: Here’s how to do it in case you want to see how a certain tweeter’s interests have evolved. It could be useful in terms of seeing how a journalist’s interests have shifted or citing their older pieces to show them that you’re familiar with their work.
- Discover the biggest influencers in different fields since 2006: The index “sorts tweets based on its own proprietary sentiment analysis and influence-ranking measures” and allows you to filter results by the most influential tweeters whose messages fit your search parameters.
- Determine which journalists to pitch: This is a basic one, but if you want to, say, pitch a story on beauty trends to The New York Times you can identify which writers cover specific elements of that beat by searching “beauty and New York Times”. Since the company’s algorithm lists links by how often they’re cited, you can determine whose articles have the furthest potential reach.
- Find topics and unique angles to pitch: By discovering and researching the biggest influencers on a given topic, you can get into the niches and identify the angle by which your client fits into the larger story.
- Get instant alerts on crises: With the “alerts and reports” button, you can set up automated summaries of negative sentiment or get alerts on scandals or PR disasters as they occur. (This update happened earlier in the year, but it’s still very relevant to PR pros.)
- Get summaries of the week’s biggest events: Reports of top tweets and links shared during the previous week are also not part of the new updates, but with the new expanded index you can reach further back in time to gauge the evolution of opinions on the stories that are trending right now.
- Determine where events are happening: While fewer than 1% of all tweets contain geographic information, Topsy claims that it can sort them by the location of the IP addresses from which they were sent. This could be particularly useful when looking for events or influencers in a client’s general area or identifying tweeters with whom you might schedule personal meetings to develop deeper relationships.
- Find relevant multimedia content: You can narrow your Topsy search to include only pics or videos and more easily pull up multimedia content to round out a presentation or campaign. You could, for example, bring up a history of photos of a client’s product.
The free service requires some fine tuning, but it seems like Topsy is now the best way to make the most of Twitter as a PR resource. We don’t have access to the “more advanced” tools that come along with a premium subscription—but we’d love more info on how to make the most of them as well.