ResearchHappy Sunday! As you catch up on your reading, I thought I’d point you to a very interesting read on using Twitter to extract meaningful insights.

It’s a post by Andrew Hutchinson on Social Media Today, which has been languishing in my inbox for a while.

It’s quite a long read, but well worth it.

In particular, look at #1, and the example Andrew gives of how the U.S. Geological Survey uses Twitter data to track earthquakes:

“For example, the U.S. Geological Survey, when using Twitter data to track earthquakes, utilizes only four variables:

  • They look for mentions of ‘earthquake’
  • Tweets of seven words or longer are excluded (people in an earthquake zone tend to keep their messages short)
  • Tweets sharing links are excluded
  • Tweets which include a number (like ‘magnitude 8’) are excluded”

Then he goes on to give you an example of how a pizzeria owner could do this using TweetDeck (to track people who love pizza, not earthquakes 8-) ).

But really, you can use these principles anywhere, and certainly in any Twitter app … and EVEN in Twitter itself, using the “advanced search” function.

What is really important here is that USGS is very specific in its search parameters, looking for USEFUL information.

Not just “any” information; but USEFUL information. They’re factoring what they already know about how people behave and communicate in earthquake zones into their search, to get the most relevant returns that support their ultimate goal.

They’re working smarter, not harder.

This is where I see a lot of Social PR pros getting off-track.

“What dashboard can I use to track ‘everything’?”

I hear this all the time, and I bet you do as well.

And the answer is… you don’t NEED to track “everything.” You only NEED to track what is going to be useful.

Nine times out of 10, trying to track “everything’ is going to be a complete and utter waste of time.

And time is money.

The next time you are putting together a search for any reason – basic listening, CEO issues, competitive intelligence, background for an audit, whatever – think about how you will ultimately use the information.

That will make you think about what kinds of search data will really be useful and, in turn, guide you in setting up really useful search parameters.

None of which NEED a big budget or tons of bells and whistles.

Work smarter, not harder, peeps; that’s what it’s about!