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3 tricks for monitoring Twitter mentions and trackbacks

by Alex in | | | | |

The brilliant Lauren Bacon made a big splash yesterday with her thought-provoking post on the emotional work that often gets assigned to women working in the tech world. The response to that post has been so massive that it’s left her with a challenge: how do you monitor and reply to the torrent of ensuing tweets?

Whether you’re trying to track and engage with public perceptions of your work, your latest blog post or your company, monitoring Twitter is an essential part of that work. It’s not enough to get Google News alerts that tell you if your company is in the news, or to read the comments on your blog; odds are good that a huge part of the conversation is going to unfold on Twitter, and that conversation may look quite different from what you see on blogs or news sites.

If everybody who was talking about you or your company was referring to you by your Twitter handle, this job would be relatively easy: you’d just monitor your mentions feed. But a lot of the time, people may be talking about you — or especially that latest blog post — without including your Twitter handle in their tweets. And if you’re trying to track the response to a blog post, in particular, they may not be mentioning you at all: the only clue that they are talking about your work is the link that’s embedded in each tweet sharing your post.

Here are three tricks for tracking and responding to the folks who are talking about you, whether or not they are mentioning you by name:

  1. HootSuite column monitors search on author's name and its variantsMonitor your name, as well as your handle. Set up a Twitter search on your name (and common misspellings thereof); if you use a multi-column Twitter client like HootSuite or Tweetdeck, add this search as as a column (a “stream”, in HootSuite-ese”). Do the same thing for your company name, senior execs’ names, etc. Keep an eye on this column and respond to it the way you’d respond to mentions. Note that if you have a common name, this could produce a lot of irrelevant results, so you may find it easier to do your search directly on Twitter where you can use “-” operators to exclude irrelevant results: for example I might set up a search on “alexandra samuel” OR “alexandra samuels” OR “alex samuel” OR “alex samuels” -”self magazine” -linux (because there’s an Alexandra Samuel at Self Magazine, and an Alex Samuel who writes about Linux).  
  2. Monitor link backs with Topsy. If you’ve got a post that is blowing up, like Lauren’s, use Topsy to watch for any and all tweets that link to that post. For example, by entering the URL of Lauren’s post, we see these tweets:
    Topsy trackbacks on Lauren Bacon's post shows 191 tweets and some of the most interesting tweets
    Note that Topsy finds tweets that include shortened links (e.g. bit.ly URLs) as well as those that include the full-length URL (which is unlikely to be tweeted, anyhow) so you just have to enter your full-length URL in order to track all the tweets that have shared it. When I have a post on the Harvard Business Review blog, I typically visit the Topsy trackbacks for that link several times in the first 48 hours, and then one a day for the next week or so.
  3. Thank and engage with scheduled tweets. Of course, you shouldn’t be tracking all those mentions just for the sheer ego gratification (or in some cases, ego shattering) that comes from seeing what people have to say about you. The whole point of seeing all these links is to engage with them, ideally by replying to any questions or substantive comments, and perhaps by thanking some or all of the folks who have tweeted about your work. You can thank people in real time, or you can queue up a bunch of thank-yous in Buffer, an app that lets you schedule tweets on a specific schedule. You can use HootSuite for tweet scheduling, too, but as my next post will explain , using Topsy and Buffer together will turn you into tweet-thanking ninja.
First posted on January 24,2013

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