twitter-bird-googleWe hear a lot about using social media for listening, starting, and participating in conversations, but how do we actually get a conversation started?

One way to start or join a conversation is to answer questions for people. During my presentation at the Constant Contact event last week, I talked briefly about using Twitter’s advanced search function to look for people asking questions about your area of expertise. For example, if I own a barber shop or hair salon, I may want to search Twitter using this search phrase:

“hair cut”  near:66219 within:15mi ?

to find and join conversations relevant to my business.

One of the challenges you may run into using Twitter search this way is it can be difficult to separate all of the people trying to sell products and services (other providers) from the ones who are looking for solutions (prospects).

For example, if I was an estate attorney and I search for:

“need a will” ?

using Twitter’s advanced search, I will find a lot of messages from attorney’s who want to sell their services.

One way to address this issue is to use Google to search Twitter. Back in March of 2010, John Jantsch wrote a very useful blog post titled 7 Insanely Useful Ways To Search Twitter for Marketing. In his post, John gave an example of how to use Google to search Twitter for profiles containing the word “attorney” – intitle:”attorney * on twitter” site:twitter.com

You can also use the search operators that John describes to exclude items from your search results. I query below, I want to find the phrase “need a will” from pages on twitter where the word “attorney” is not in the profile:

“need a will” -”intitle:attorney * on twitter” site:twitter.com

The minus sign in front of “intitle:attorney” is what tells Google to exclude those items.

One quick note, you can’t combine Twitter’s special search terms with Google’s, which is why you don’t see the “near:66219” in the Google search above.

Take a look at John’s post referenced above and play around with using Google to search Twitter to help you find relevant conversations with people who need your products and services.

Leave a comment and let me know your favorite way to start conversations on Twitter.

Bill Brelsford Small Business Marketing Consultant