How To Search Old Tweets Until Twitter Lets You Download Yours

For people search, see “The Ultimate Guide To Finding People On Twitter

Twitter’s default search only goes back a week—if that—and often chokes on multiple keyword searches. But finally, Twitter has begun letting users download ALL their Tweets, and has included a tweet search engine (& charts) with the download! It even lets you sort by month or keyword, and includes some handy charts. Well done, Twitter!

But not everyone can access their download…yet!

So if that’s not available to you, fortunately, there ARE many great alternatives. For example, Topsy lets you search all the way back to May, 2008. Below are links in order of what I’ve found most useful to least useful for general tweet searches (however, some are powerful in other ways)

Problems With Search

There is no free search product that is 100% reliable. Even just trying to see tweets written to you on a day-to-day basis can be problematic. Also, read about how, in July, 2011, Twitter changed how search works.

Also, to see the most tweets possible at Twitter.com, read “How to get Twitter.com to show you more tweets when you page down.”

Here are my favorites:

  1. Download all your tweets with a built in search engine
  2. TwimeMachine
  3. SnapBird
  4. Topsy
  5. The Archivist (a service that lets you search Twitter for Tweets. Then you can create an archive, view it as a spreadsheet or download a .zip file and analyze, export and share the tweets. It displays some stat charts about the tweets.)
  6. TweetBoard
  7. All My Tweets (View your last 3200 tweets on one page.) HY @tsbandito
  8. Google Tweet Search with date option
  9. Google Realtime Search Update: Google has cancelled this service after coming out with their own social network
  10. TweetScan (now for sale)
  11. BackTweets
  12. Twitter Advanced Search
  13. Social Searching (claims search years back in Twitter or Facebook, doesn’t always work)
  14.  http://chirpcity.com searches local, city and keyword based trends and tweets.
  15. FriendFeed
  16. Research.ly announces you can access up to 1,000 days of Twitter conversations: http://bit.ly/hVxcbN
  17. The paid search companies @gnip and @DataSift will search ALL tweets for you.
Searchtastic (went offline July 26, 2011)

Library of Congress tweet archive search

By searching Google using the “Updates” option you are searching the entire twitter archive. See the Google section below.

Review of all search methods

I’ve added a brief review below, which I’ll expand later. Before I do, would you let me know of any other tweet search engines you’ve found? I’ll update the chart and this review to include them. Would you also let me know of any problems you’ve had using these search engines? Of course, there are tons of alternative Twitter search engines out there, with a wide variety of features. See, for example, 30 Twitter Search Alternatives & Tools. And many Twitter clients have advanced Twitter search options.

Note that search engines don’t go beyond the 3200 Twitter API limit.

Review of Tweet Search Engines

Snapbird

Note that you can search your DMs or any user’s favorites in SnapBird, and Searchtastic will export your search results to a spreadsheet. Great features!

BackTweets

This lets you see tweets that linked to any website address, e.g., see all the tweets that have included links to your blog. Twitter did not formerly offer this search service themselves, but now they do. But BackTweets will show you more results than Twitter’s search. Just paste any URL into BackTweets or search.twitter.com to see all the tweets that have included a link to that URL.

Topsy, Tweetboard & Friendfeed

These powerful tools are different from the others, and not search engines in the way you might expect. Topsy now lets you search all the way back to May, 2008! These three should all be part of your Twitter arsenal. Do this:

  1. Apply to join the Tweetboard beta.
  2. Sign up for Friendfeed so it will save your tweets,.
  3. Start experimenting with Topsy.

I love how Tweetboard will show me conversations from nearly two years ago on Twitter. Topsy’s strength is showing you which are the most important links tweeted for a particular search. Some of the links we share from TweetSmarter every week are found by searching Topsy for “Twitter.”

Tip: When you are looking at search results in Topsy, note the options at the bottom of it’s left-hand column, and along the top of the page.

Google

REPLAY: Google has several ways to find tweets, but I don’t find any of them very useful. They had an experiment called “replay” that let you see how frequently words were being tweeted. Although it is officially over, you can still access the replay features here (as of August 11, 2010). Note the date links under the search box. Play with those to see different date ranges.

UPDATES: For any Google search you do, you can click “Updates” in the left column (you may have to click “more” to see the options) to restrict your search results to tweets. While the keyword search is advanced, you are restricted to searching all tweets from all users.

CUSTOM:You can search for tweets from specific users, but Google has been eliminating most tweets. They used to show you a LOT of tweets, now there are very few results returned. The way to achieve this search is to enter the following into the Google search box:

site:twitter.com inurl:”USERNAME/status” SEARCH TERMS

For example, here is how you would search for any tweets from @TweetSmarter that contain the word “followers”

site:twitter.com inurl:”TweetSmarter/status” followers

There are other ways to do this, but Twitter has changed its URL structure a bit, so this is now the most accurate.

LISTS: You can do a similar search for Twitter lists in Google, which appears complete. Read more by clicking here and scrolling down to the section “Comprehensive index of all Twitter lists…on Google

TwimeMachine & TweetScan

You’ll probably find yourself using these least of all, because in each case there is another search engine that does it better. But let me know your experience!

Other tweet search engines

Know of others? Leave me a comment to let me know and I’ll update this post and credit you. I’ll be reviewing some of these in a future post:

Archive your tweets

There are a lot of services that you can subscribe to that will archive your tweets, and then there are options for searching them as well. If you haven’t signed up to any archive service yet, first join FriendFeed and let them save your tweets for you. I’m writing a separate post about tweet archive services that I’ll link to when it goes live, but in the meantime check out 10 Ways to Archive Your Tweets.

Summary: All The Ways You Can Search Old Tweets

This chart is a bit out of date at present, but you may still find it useful:

18 thoughts on “How To Search Old Tweets Until Twitter Lets You Download Yours

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  4. Hello,

    Thanks a lot for the valuable info.
    I was wondering if there is a site that provides downloadable files on tweet volume (not the content). So far I liked Topsy the most. However, it only displays amount of tweets on the side, and I am not able to download them.

    Perhaps you would also know what is the best way to search for tweets related to movie names since they are often commonly used terms in daily conversations.

    Thanks a great deal,
    Anete

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