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How to Use Twitter Search to Spy on the Competition

twitter search

We all know the benefits of social media marketing and how Twitter is a great platform for B2B businesses, but did you also know that you can leverage this social media site to spy on the competition?

Using Twitter Search’s advanced features and many search operators, you can learn a lot about your competition, including who isn’t happy with their product or service.

Twitter Search Basics

To follow along, log in to your Twitter account. From there, input anything into the search bar. For this exercise, I’m going to input “competition.”


Once you’re on the search results page, click on “More options” and then select “Advanced search.”


Now you’ll see all the options Twitter search really has to offer! Let’s take a look.



This search feature allows you to type in specific words, phrases, exceptions, and hashtags written in a multitude of languages. 


Using these fields you can further narrow your search to only include tweets from certain accounts, to certain accounts, or that mention certain accounts.


This only works if people have their location switched on, but allows you to search for people tweeting from a certain place. 


This allows you to search tweets within a specific date range.


This allows you to search for tweets with a positive or negative connotation and/or a question (including or excluding retweets). This is great for finding people that have questions about your industry or business or are unhappy with a certain product or service (like your competition’s—more on that later).

Search Operators 

Search operators are specialized keys that help people narrow down search results. Here are some search operators you can use with Twitter search that can even further pinpoint exactly what you’re looking for.


Yes, the hashtag is actually a search operator. Every time someone uses a hashtag, that keyword or phrase is categorized with other tweets using the same one.

Quotation Marks

Use quotation marks to group words in a search. If you don’t group them, Twitter will search for each individual word. For example, if I’m looking for “best cell phones,” I want to group those words together within quotation marks so that I don’t get individual results for each word.


Parentheses around two or more groups of words tell Twitter to pull tweets that have something from both groups. For example, if I put in (“cell phone reviews”) (“iPhone” OR “Samsung”) it will only return phone reviews for those two types of phones.


As shown in the example above, using OR as a search operator tells Twitter what exact categories you want it to pull from (“Nokia” OR “Samsung” OR “iPhone”).

Minus Sign

Using the minus sign can help you eliminate results you don’t want. For example, say you want to read about iPhone 6 reviews but not for the 6S, you would input (iPhone 6) -(6S) so that it only returns the search results you want.

Using These Tools to Spy on the Competition

So now that you know the basics of Advanced Search as well as which search operators you can use, how can you leverage this information to spy on the competition?

Words + Connotation 

Under the “Words” section of advanced search, input the name of your competition’s company or one of their products or services and under “Other” select “Negative” to return tweets of people who aren’t happy with your competition’s solution. You can then swoop in and save the day! 

People + Connotation

Instead of putting in the name of the company, you can also input their Twitter handle under “Mentioning these accounts” along with negative connotation.

Words + People 

Under Words, put “sucks” and under People, put the competition’s handle in the “to these accounts” or “mentioning these accounts” fields. Remember, you can also use search operators like OR to include additional descriptors like (“sucks” OR “bad” OR “terrible”).

There you have it! Hopefully learning these Twitter search skills will not only help you spy on the competition, but will also help you discover conversations about your own business that you may not have seen.

I’d like to thank the amazing #SproutChat for the conversation that inspired this blog post.

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Lolly Spindler


Lolly Spindler

Lolly Spindler is the Content Marketing Manager at xoombi. A writer by trade, Lolly loves to make the written word work for clients by delivering high quality, engaging content to their audiences. She leads the xoombi content marketing team in executing demand generation, SEO, and copy editing strategies. Lolly is a graduate of Boston University.


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