How To: Use Twitter as a Listening Station

Filed in MY BEST POSTS, Social Media by Matt McGee on March 14, 2013 3 Comments

Twitter can be a tough nut for small businesses to crack. You send out tweet after tweet after tweet and … nothing. (This is why Twitter has been doing small biz education and on-boarding for a while now.)

So if being active isn’t working, try being passive.

Passive? Yes. I mean: use Twitter as a customer service tool, listening first and responding when needed.

It’s really simple. You can do a more than adequate job with just two tools.


(Update, July 1, 2013: Twilert has relaunched and is no longer a completely free service.)

I used to use a service called for email alerts, but it’s been put on hiatus since SEOmoz bought the parent company, Followerwonk.

Twilert does pretty much the same thing. Just give Twilert your username (or any username, for that matter), a hashtag or a keyword/search term and it’ll email you whenever it finds matching tweets. You can set how often you want to receive alerts — one fixed time every day, or — and this is what I use — “every 10 minutes” (and similar phrases) also works.


Suggestion: Be careful with the keyword-based search/alerts. It can get really overwhelming in a hurry. I only use Twilert for notifications of when my @MattMcGee handle is mentioned. The email comes in and, if needed, I can reply quickly even if I haven’t been paying attention to Twitter. That alone can get you started on using Twitter as a listening station.

Twilert really appears to shine with some of the advanced search options. Have a look:


I said “appears to shine” because I haven’t tested all of these. But you can see some interesting options in there — so far as even being able to listen (via email) to conversations between other users with the “People: From/To” options there.

Twilerts is free.

Twitter Email Notifications

Twitter itself offers a number of alert options in the Settings section of your account. Look for “Email Notifications” on the left side of the page, and click for your alert options.


Twitter offers a number of alert options that will make it easier for any small business to start listening. I recommend clicking the “Email me when” boxes next to

  • My Tweets get a reply or I’m mentioned in a Tweet, and
  • My Tweets are retweeted

Both of those might be opportunities to respond on Twitter, perhaps with a “thanks” when someone retweets you or whatever kind of response is needed when you’re mentioned on Twitter. For those options, you can choose to get emails when you’re mentioned by anyone, or just by people you follow. If you’re a small business owner, “by anyone” is probably your best choice.

You can also get emails from Twitter when someone starts following you, when you get a direct message, and several more options.

Twitter offers more options than Twilert, but you can’t control when you get the emails from Twitter. So, to be able to respond more quickly, I highly recommend the Twilert alerts.


It’s okay to choose to use Twitter passively. If you don’t have time, or if your more active use hasn’t been working, try just using Twitter as a listening station. Email alerts from Twilert and Twitter itself can help with this.

Remember: Customers and prospects like to get replies when they mention your company on Twitter. That’s especially true if the consumer is complaining — a reply is almost a must at that point. And sometimes a simple reply is all it takes to turn complainers into fans.

(Stock image via Used under license.)

Comments (3)

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  1. Mike Zaremba says:

    Hey, I did post just like this for local businesses along with the search function provided by twitter!

    I love twilert and if you tighten down the targeting it comes in really handy.

    Not trying to spam but here’s the link that is tailored for local:

  2. Anthony Pensabene says:

    i was a shy kid who liked to retreat into the world of books whenever i could. when i got older, still being shy but coming more out of my shell, i was often celebrated for being a ‘good listener.’ Everyone likes to speak, to ‘me, me, me,’ but not everyone thinks about listening..

    Dan Shure is a big advocate of listening. I take note from astute chaps such as he and yourself.. i think ‘listening’ is inextricable from successful marketing.

  3. Johnny Smyth says:

    great post, never heard of Twilert and this will certainly help me keep tabs on when I get mentions, which is rare, but like you say, it’s good business to reply to mentions as soon as possible. Thanks for sharing.

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