How to Search Twitter for Old Tweets – And How to Archive Them

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John P's Brilliance on Twitter

Let’s face it. Every once in a while, you grace the Twitter world with your brilliance. Well, for some people…like John P….it happens on a daily basis. The problem is, when you want to go back and admire said brilliance, it can be difficult to find! Twitter only lets you search so far back. By some reports, it only shows you four days worth of tweets.

That’s just not enough when you need to find a link you or a friend posted, or look up a quote or a funny joke. There are many, many reasons we look up old tweets, and third party websites have come to our rescue! Let’s take a look at some options for searching old tweets and backing up your tweet stream.

Search

Keep in mind, with most of these options, you have the ability to choose who’s Twitter Timeline you’re searching. So, you can search your own timeline or you can search someone else’s tweets. I’m going to focus on searching your own tweets, because I’ve found that most of us wind up wanting to do that more often.

Also keep in mind that these services will search back 3200 tweets before it stops looking. How far back that goes in years, of course, depends on how much you tweet on a daily basis. This is a limitation of the Twitter API, not the services.

SnapBird: Search Tweets


Snap Bird

SnapBird.org says they won’t search the public timeline (the tweets that are currently available via twitter.com), but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I can easily pull up tweets that range from two minutes ago to a couple years ago.

Not only can you search a timeline, but you can ALSO use Snap Bird to search @replies and Direct Messages. This is a very easy to use interface, free, and I’ve always found what I’m looking for with the service. Highly recommended!

Topsy

Using Topsy.com’s free Advanced Search, you can search your tweets and even subscribe to the results via RSS. The way it displays results is interesting, though not all that visually attractive. You can look at tweets broken up into the Past Hour, the Past Day, the Past 7 Days, the Past 30 Days, the Past 71 Days (why 71, I don’t know!), or all tweets of All Time (up to the API limit of 3200).

Topsy gives you the ability to retweet a tweet you find. You can share the full search results on Twitter, or you can create an email alert for the search criteria you’ve entered.

But wait…there’s more!

It doesn’t JUST do Twitter. Want to search the entire web? How about photos or videos online? It does that too.

Social Searching: Search Facebook & Twitter


Social Searching

SocialSearching.info lets you search BOTH Twitter and Facebook. This one is also a very simple interface – choose the user you want to search and a keyword. You do have to login with your Twitter or Facebook account in order to use this service.

If you try it out and don’t like it, head on over to your Twitter account. Under Settings, then Connections, you can revoke access to the site. It’s a good idea to do this every once in a while if you’re the type to try out a lot of third party Twitter websites, by the way.

Advanced Google Search

If you trust Google more than anyone else, then you could just use an advanced Google search. Just type…

site:twitter.com inurl:”USERNAME” KEYWORD

…where an example search would be:

site:twitter.com inurl:”calilewis” amazon

Backup

Searching old tweets, whether your own or someone else’s is great and all, but do you ever get a little antsy about loosing all the work you’ve put INTO Twitter? I do! I spend a lot of time on Twitter, posting and interacting with my followers. Last year, I started backing up my tweets for safe storage. I have yet to actually need the backup, but if something terrible happens to Twitter one day, I’ll be glad I have them!

Backupify: Backup Your Tweets


Backupify

The one I use is called Backupify. You can backup your Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, Flickr and more (up to 5 accounts) on a weekly basis for free. You can use up to 2GB of storage, and it’ll email you the backup files. They offer Pro accounts that gives you more accounts, more storage and more support, starting at $5/month.

Like all good backup should be, it’s a simple, painless process that doesn’t require your attention once it’s setup.

TweetBackup

TweetBackup.com is now owned by Backupify, but it’s still running separately and seems to have been untouched. However TweetBackup users can now take advantage of Backupify’s support system.

They offer free backup on a daily basis, rather than a weekly basis. Login with your Twitter account, and it’ll work automatically on the backend. It will allow you to export your tweets in a variety of formats.

BackupMyTweets

BackupMyTweets does things a little differently in the signup process. The actual backup process seems to be the same, but BackupMyTweets charges for their service…UNLESS you tweet about them. THEN they’ll give it to you for free.

Let me be very clear…I’m adamantly against being forced to tweet in order to try out a service. I won’t do it. So I have NOT tried this service, but I know some of you may not care, so I’m sharing in case you want to use it. At the very least, their website is the nicest looking of all. If that means anything…

Archivist

The Archivist, from the team at Microsoft MIX Online, lets you search for tweets and then archive that search. So rather than archiving YOUR Twitter feed, it’ll archive the history of the search terms. It’ll even give you graphs to go along with your archive!

Look at the Volume Over Time, Top Users for that search, how many Tweets versus ReTweets there are, the Top Words and Top URLs. If you’re into analytics, this is an interesting website!

Going Mobile

If you’re an iPad user, you could archive and search your tweets in a mobile fashion with an app called Tweet Library. When you use it for the first time, it’ll download the back catalogue of your tweets and (I presume, though it doesn’t say specifically) continue to keep the archive of new tweets. It’ll also allow you to search through old tweets and curate them by categorizing into groups.

That’s a Wrap!

I think that’s about enough to get you started! What services do YOU use? Leave a comment below!

Article Written by
Cali Lewis

Host of GeekBeat.TV - Cali has been using new media and podcasts to talk about her passion - technology, gadgets and science - since 2005. Find out more about her on Cali's Google Profile.

Comments

  1. Me says:

    I have been trying to find one of my friend’s first tweet and they have about 14.6K tweets and none of these websites worked for it. The only thing is that I love how you organized your information. Thanks

  2. The Archivist has now become http://www.tweetarchivist.com with all the same features plus more. And, you can now download tweet archives for further analysis in Excel or other tools. Come check us out and let us know new features you’d like to see…

  3. Atrice says:

    Excellent source of information-very well organized!

  4. Alan Ng says:

    This is excellent info. I tend to use Twitter as a diary of sorts and was very surprised that they didn’t have an inbuilt search function! It’s very strange having to resort to external search functionality for a platform which can include it so easily?! But thanks, very complete summary.

  5. I had post a novel (the first one on twitter) back in 2008 and it is all still there, all 3501 posts. Maybe the age of the posts, or just the fact that the account @talkingcat, was only used to post the book.

  6. Cali Lewis says:

    Thanks for the heads up on those two services, guys!

  7. Also TweetNest is good for both, if you have a PHP/MySQL server to host it on.

  8. Steven says:

    I suggest adding ThinkUp to the list. It is currently in beta but is headed to an official release soon. Check it out at http://thinkupapp.com

  9. I have just recently taken up using twitter a week or so ago and I was already having trouble checking old tweets. I found this to be very useful! Thanks for helping a twitter noob. :)

  10. fas says:

    Twitter might have been the next best thing an year a ago but due to the volume of tweets its declining. One cant really play catch up all the time.

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