Listen in locally to Twitter questions

Hootsuite - the owl that eavedropsI have mentioned previously about eavesdropping on consumer conversations in Twitter and today I will share with you some easy steps for setting it up.

The three tools we need are:

  • A Twitter account
  • A Hootsuite account
  • Geocodes

With these three tools and some keywords that are important to your business, you are set to be among the first of your competitors to be able to respond to live questions.

WARNING: I have embedded some live streams of Twitter eavesdropping around Darwin and Alice Springs below. Some content might be insipid or vulgar, so proceed with care.


Twitter accounts are easy to set up.

Go to, choose to register, enter your name, email address, password and desired username and you are away.

For today’s purposes, I am focussing on how you do this. At some point you need to think about what word or name you want as your Twitter ‘handle’ or username because it is associated with everything you post on the service and this opportunity for branding should be well considered.

If in doubt, just sign up as yourself for this exercise. The personal touch is the best default position because some people are averse to brands talking to the them directly.


Find the geocode for the location of your town so you can listen in to people within a 25km radius. You might want to choose a few different locations to cover your marketplace.

I use Geocode Source.

As an example, the geocode for Adelaide River is -13.2439699173,131.1210937500.


Now you have your Twitter account and your geocode, register at for a free account.

It will ask you to add a social network and we are choosing Twitter. Make sure you are logged in to Twitter on a separate tab in your internet browser during this phase because Hootsuite will want to connect to Twitter to authorise its access to your Twitter account. It just makes it easier if Twitter is already open.

Once you are connected, click on the house icon (streams) and look for a button called + Add Stream. Click it. Choose Search from the tabs offered to you.

In the box where you need to enter your search query, enter something like this:

? AND when OR where OR who OR what OR does geocode:-12.4613304138,130.8419036865,25km

? AND what OR when OR who OR where OR how OR why geocode:-23.7003593445,133.8808898926,25km

The first one targets Darwin, the second targets Alice Springs.

Here is what that code is picking up in Darwin at the moment

Here is what that code is picking up in Alice Springs at the moment

Let’s look closely at the search query

I have told Hootsuite to monitor Twitter for chatter from users within 25km of Darwin who are using a question mark ‘?’ AND who are also using one of the following terms; when, where, who, what, does.

I chose the question mark because when people use it we know they really are asking a question.

I then chose some words that are also evidence of earnest questions.

You might want to couple a few different terms such as: ? AND meal

That example could cover people in your local area looking for somewhere to have a meal, someone to have a meal with, suggestions for what to have for a meal, etc.

As you can see, by stripping back questions most likely to be asked by people who need your product or service, to their core parts, you can finetune an efficient, legal, eavesdropping tool.

And if you have something valuable to contribute to people you overhear, you are within your rights to share your suggestions.

As with all ‘social’ interactions, try not to come on heavy with a sales pitch. Offer some valuable insights and let the prospect decide whether they trust you or not.

Let me know what terms you are playing with or challenges you are facing is crafting your search terms together.

You might also have alternative ways of running these searches. Please share.

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