The Social Web and Libraries: Twitter Alerts

Twitter Search (name recently changed from Summize) is a great tool for listening to your community. Here’s what Twitter says about Twitter Search: “Keeping up with interesting news and people you care about is one dimension of Twitter, but what if you need to find out what’s happening in the world beyond your personal timeline? There is an undeniable need to search, filter, and otherwise interact with the volumes of news and information being transmitted to Twitter every second. Twitter Search helps you filter all the real-time information coursing through our service.”

How do you use alerts to listen to your community?

OK… but how do you listen using Twitter Search? That’s easy. Do a search in Twitter Search… and along with the results page, you get an RSS feed of the search. Voila! You have just created a Twitter Alert for that search.

Here’s what I do, for both my personal blog and for my library, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library. For both, I have a number of alerts set up:

David Lee King:

  • David King
  • David Lee King
  • davidleeking
  • dlk (because some of you call me DLK)

Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library:

  • topeka library
  • topeka

The library alerts were much harder to set up – not too many people want to type in “Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library” – that uses up most of the 140 characters allowed by twitter! But Topeka Library captures some library-related conversation. Other libraries won’t have the same problem – for example, here’s what people are saying about the Seattle Public Library.

My Topeka alert is much more interesting, because it captures a variety of conversation – what’s happening in Topeka, what people are doing, what they like and don’t like. It’s capturing the general “feel” of the community, which can be useful. I’ve picked up on some pretty interesting thoughts from people this way:

  • (my library in the local news): “local headlines New Phone Book Honors Topeka Library: AT&T unveiled its new phone book cover …”
  • (people sharing their likes/dislikes about Topeka): “dude, what did you expect? it’s Kansas. I have to goto Topeka for biz sometimes. that town creeps me out.”
  • local news can be interesting (quite a few local broadcasters use Twitter): “Melissa_Brunner: topeka police bomb robot is now approaching the suspicious package”
  • This was cool – apparently, local realtors are discussing uses of web 2.0 for their business: “I’m looking forward to lunch with @rebr and @76cad to discuss WEB 2.0 uses in real estate in Topeka, KS”

So… what can you DO with this knowledge?

For some libraries and organizations, you’ll be eavesdropping on conversations about YOU. Respond accordingly. For example, someone had this to say about Kansas City Public Library: “Kansas City Public Library is awesome, and totally right by my house. appears to block im, though. strange.” Easy enough to respond to, right? It’s either a yes/no answer with a bit of explanation. Here’s another one: “Carrying my super-cool Wichita public library tote onto a plane to denver then to seattle.” Thank the person for loving your bag!

For other libraries (like my own), there won’t be too many direct conversations about the library… but you can still use Twitter alerts to:

  • get a general feel for what’s going on in your community
  • to connect with people using twitter (I’m connected to some local media types – those can be valuable connections)
  • use it to push the library’s tech (I could contact those realtors interested in web 2.0 and  discuss 2.0 and topeka with them, for example)

So – lots of value for your organization using Twitter Search!