Essential Guide to Using Twitter for Inspiration

It's All About The Search

Twitter is foremost about communication, interaction and community, however it’s fast becoming the best service to keep up to date with the latest trends, news and resources as well as helping you to understand more about your audience and industry.

With the fast pace and nature of micro-blogging it’s easy to lose track of the constant stream of highly useful links and resources being tweeted each day.

With this in mind, i’ve compiled a look at six of the best ways to use Twitter as a constant source of inspiration and how you can make sure you never lose track of another great link.

  • 1. It’s Not Just About Twitter.com

We love Twitter.com but it has a limited feature set and even though using the web interface is still the most popular way to access Twitter, the wealth of online services and desktop applications, means managing our followers and friends, getting an insight into links and trends and integrating different types of media is easier than ever before.

The sheer volume of applications and services means we can get more out of our microblogging activities.

Using services like Twitter 100 or Tweet Grid and others, enables you to glance who you follow quickly and efficiently. It also means you can keep up to date with the latest updates and resources from your favorite twitterers.

Experiment with the various services and applications out there to find one that works for you and enables you to manage your twitter stream more efficiently.

  • 2. Follow And Manage Effectively

Choosing who to follow is perhaps the most important step, if you pick wisely you can create a consistently fresh source of inspiring resources, tutorials and articles.

There are plenty of lists featuring the best design twitterers to follow, however to get you started here are some of the best roundups:

* 100 Web Designers to follow on Twitter

* 85+ of the Best Twitterers Designers Should Follow

* 30 Top Web Designers On Twitter

Once you have chosen who to follow, the best way to keep track of these accounts is to put the people you’re following into groups (for example Web Designers, Writers, Developers) as this will make it easier to follow specific types of people and slow down your twitter stream making it more manageable.

TweetDeck Groups

Applications such as TweetDeck, Nambu and Tweetr along with web based services like Tweetworks, Tweetizen and TwitHive, all allow you to create groups with your contacts and filter messages exactly how you want them. In fact there is now a growing number of ways to create groups and help manage who you follow.

Someone who knows all about effectively managing his twitter account and being a design resource powerhouse on Twitter, is Calvin Lee of @mayhemstudios. Calvin kindly agreed to share how he manages to follow 32000+ people and keep track of the links being shared:

“I use Tweetdeck to manage my large following. It’s impossible to keep up with everyone. So I have groups in Tweekdeck of the people I talk to often, people that tweet great resources and people I admire. I’m always adding new people to the group.

When I see a tweet from my group or a tweet by (a tweet in all friends) that would benefit my fellow designers or followers. I retweet it, then save it to my Twitter Favorites. Eventually, I bookmark all the great links on delicious with tags and labels for easy access.

People are not taking advantage of their Twitter Favorites on their profile. It’s a great way to bookmark tweets you may want to retweet later, save articles or links to read later. It would also benefit your followers. As they have an archive of your great resources bookmarked. People can even subscribe to your tweets RSS feed so they don’t miss anything. I have over 300-400 pages of goodies and links on my Twitter Favorites.”

Talking of Favorites….

  • 3. Use Your Favorites Button

Throughout the day thousands of design gems fill the twittersphere and there’s an easy way to quickly keep track of these without ever leaving twitter or our twitter application – the favorites button.

By clicking on the star below an update, it ‘saves’ the tweet to your favorites stream. You can then refer back to this whenever you like, it essentially becomes your own bookmarker for those really great posts you don’t want to forget.

A few examples of people who use their favorites extensively are:

@tedoeFavorites
@FearMediocrityFavorites
@matthewmeeksFavorites
@maxbeattyFavorites

One of the most common complaints is that there is no easy way to ‘export’ you’re favorites from Twitter. However you can create an RSS feed from your favorites timeline by going to:

http://twitter.com/favorites/YOUR TWITTER ID HERE.rss, so my favorites would be: http://twitter.com/favorites/gracesmith.rss. You can then add this to your feed reader just like any other feed.

Nadine Gilden (@curiouslt) uses a interesting combination of marking favorites in Twitter and Only2Clicks to bookmark and organise interesting resources, as she shares below:

“There are so many great resources and links that get shared on Twitter, and I am not always using Twitter from a browser, so Favorites is the best way to ‘save’ a tweet that I want to hold on to. I favorite the tweet, and when I am at a computer, I take those favorites and move them to Only2Clicks. Right now I have 40 categories set up at Only2Clicks, some of them include: inspiration; photoshop, jquery, wordpress, etc. Since it is so easy to add new categories, it really helps me keep all those get resources organized.

Only2Clicks Approach To Bookmarking

Only2Clicks has a Firefox add on that you drag to your toolbar. I view the link from the saved favorite, and just click on the ‘Add to only2clicks’ in my toolbar and select the category I want to save it to, and I can add any notes with it as well.”

  • 4. Bookmark And Organise

For many bookmarking links they visited from Twitter is the preferred method of finding and keeping inspiration and information.

Delicious is perhaps the most common service used and with new open source applications available like Twitticious, which allows you to import links from a twitter timeline to your delicious account, this makes bookmarking and organising links a pain free experience.

Delicious isn’t the only method though, with the popularity of Firefox Add-ons like ReadItLater which Henry Moran (@ffffffive) uses:

“On busy days I usually don’t have a lot of time to read every tweet. I tend to use Read It Later (RIL). It’s extremely easy to use and you can sync your bookmarks throughout multiple computers and even your iphone. Here’s how I do it in two easy steps:

* I create a new folder in Firefox for my tweets. (They could be labeled into Twitter, Inspiration etc).
* Click The Checkmark in the address bar, or if you love keyboard shortcuts press Alt + W.

ReadItLater

One of my favorite features would be the one-click link to RIL. If you have several tweets that you’d love to save but hate to go to the address bar, you can simply press Alt + M and you are in ‘Click To Save Mode’. This allows you to simply click EVERY link (tweet) you want to read later and it stores it in the folder you created. However I also use RIL for RSS Feeds as it has incorporated the checkmark near every feed.”

Another example of bookmarking tweets is from Matt Shaw (@mattshaw85) who uses Xmarks as he explains below:

“There are loads of occasions where people post fascinating links on twitter, be it inspiration, articles, techniques, or advice. To keep track of the most interesting things posted, I use twitter in combination with Firefox and the plugin Xmarks. Twitter enables me to find the inspiration, article or technique, Firefox enables me to bookmark it for later, and Xmarks enables me to sync my finds with the rest of my computers, so I can then get on with work rather than be distracted.

* Step 1: Download Xmarks
* Step 2: Create a folder in your bookmarks called ‘Twitter’ or a word of you’re choice.
* Step 3: Click on the link from twitter.
* Step 4: Save it to your bookmarks in your chosen folder, ready to read later – whichever computer you are using.”

  • 5. Set Up Specific Keyword Searches

Twitter is a resource machine with everything from news, reports, deals, trends and personal updates, so how exactly do we cut through the noise and zero in on a specific niche to listen and track a single thread of resources and conversation?

Through harnessing the power of keyword searches, we can filter the valuable resources from within the vast ocean of information on twitter and find resources and people with similar passion and interests on our chosen topics.

Using custom searches it’s easy to get a insight into the latest trends, resources, information and opinions with your specific keywords.

Services like Twitterfall, Monitter are specifically designed to let you monitor relevant information, trends and news in real-time on any given topic or niche.

Twazzup for example extracts the most relevant tweets, most active contributors, and the most retweeted contributors along with the latest blog and news articles on the topic, giving a full picture of the latest buzz on the keyword or phrase. Cyril from Twazzup also suggests “to start with generic keywords like ‘Photoshop or CSS’ and use the suggested keywords and hashtags to refine the search.”

Twazzup Search Service

David Somers, the lead developer from TwitterFall (@twfall) gives his insights into how keywords searches can provide extremely useful, real-time data:

“As far as finding useful resources, you can often combine a keyword search with ‘http’ which causes the results to only contain links. This is a great way to find web resources around a particular topic. With Twitterfall you can combine multiple keyword searches to get even more results, about various different topics.

Without keyword searches, obviously it would be impossible to track what people are saying about certain things on Twitter, and because of Twitter’s realtime nature, being able to track them in a realtime way, really helps facilitate the valuable resource of Twitter and what people are saying all day every day.”

  • 6. Search And Utilise RSS Feeds

If you’re a feed demon like me then this is where the fun begins. With Twitter’s real-time search you can create targeted results on a specific topic, grab the feed and add it into your chosen feed reader.

I recommend becoming familiar with the operators available within twitter by visiting the Search Operators and Twitters Advanced Search.

For example, if we wanted to find links to Photoshop tutorials within the last week, but we wanted to exclude retweets or RT (which means we only see the original tweets), then we set it up as follows:

* Go to Search Twitter
* Enter – photoshop tutorials filter:links -RT since:2009-07-29
The filter means we only see tweets with links, -RT removes any mention of the word RT and since:2009-07-29 makes sure we only see tweets from the last week.
* Check out the results

Twitter Search Results

In the top right hand bar, right click Feed for this query and select copy link location. Then simply paste this into your feed reader and you have a fresh source of photoshop tutorials ready to go. Repeat and rinse this process for any other type of tweets you want to keep track of.

You can also take this a step further and use the Twitter Search API, to automate Twitter searches and display up-to-the-minute, content-specific tweets to glean more detailed information.

Bonus Round

  • Create a Dedicated Twitter Account

Using the RSS Feeds we created above (Step 6) we can create a twitter account which will automatically update with these feeds. This is an easy way to keep track of the best design resources with no work involved once these steps are completed and you can also gain a healthy amount of followers who appreciate the great content being tweeted.

An example of a popular inspiration based Twitter account is @webcreative (which has over 5000 followers). It was established by Leeanne Lowe and uses TwitterFeed to post tweets from the RSS feed on her Tumblr blog.

@Webcreative Twitter Account

While this is a slightly different approach, it does show how TwitterFeed can automate the process.

Setting up TwitterFeed is as follows:

* Sign up for an account
* Once logged in click Create New Feed
* Connect your feed to your twitter account (this authorises Twitterfeed to post the feed items)
* Enter a Feed Name – something that describes the feed i.e. Photoshop Tutorials
* Enter the Feed URL (you can get this from the Twitter Search or from your Feed Reader)
* I recommend testing the feed to make sure it’s set up correctly and working

In advanced settings you can change the post frequency, content, number of updates to post at at time, post prefix, post suffix and your preferred URL shortener service. You can change these to suit your preference and particular feed. Once you’re happy with feed setup click Create Feed.

You will now have a twitter account which is regularly updated with fresh design content chosen specifically by you!

Conclusion

Twitter can be used as a powerful search and discovery tool and if used correctly can give us valuable industry and niche insights. It really is too good to overlook…

Do you have any Search tips or tricks to share, or would you like to contribute your views on how to use Twitter for trends, news, resources or inspiration? I would love to get a discussion going so feel free to share…

Image by Hongkiat

20 Comments

  1. Javier says:

    Great post Grace! It’s very useful. I’ll give some of the ideas that you put in this post. Thanks for share it with everyone!

  2. Henry says:

    Awesome! Picked out some new people to follow from the links provided :) Thanks for letting me participate Grace it was fun!

  3. Matt Shaw says:

    Great post grace. Glad to be a part of it :-)

  4. DonatellaFall says:

    Excellent and informative as always Grace!

  5. Great article Grace! I hope my method is useful to people!
    Nadine
    @curiouslt

  6. Wilian Paulino says:

    Great post!

    ReaditLater is very cool, but don’t works to me.
    Until now I have 2144 bookmarks to read later XD

    @WPaulino

  7. Nice reading, tips and tricks!… thx for sharing!

  8. Rick says:

    Thanks for the great post. I have been lacking in my Twitter abilities, hopefully this will bring me up to speed.

  9. Aline says:

    Great post! Thank You Grace. I agree with Wilian, in my point of view, Read it Later should be named Procrastinate This Now… LOL!

  10. Brandon Cox says:

    Grace, awesome guide! Didn’t know about the Twitter > Delicious app, gonna have to try that.

    • Grace says:

      @Javier Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for stopping by Javier.

      @Henry No problem, thanks for participating and adding to the discussion.

      @Matt and Donatella Thanks guys for the support!

      @Nadine Thanks for sharing your methodology, i think people are going to find it very useful.

      @Willian Hehe I now it can be too easy to just keep saving stuff, you have to super strict on checking back on bookmarks!

      @Rick Same here i really wanted to find some new ways to use Twitter.

      @Aline I think Procrastinate This Now could catch on ;-)

      @Brandon Hey Brandon :-) I hadn’t heard of it either, it looks pretty sweet.

      @Dorothy My pleasure, happy to share.

      @Cheth Thanks for the stumble Cheth, much appreciated kind sir!

      @Katie Glad you found the info helpful, it was fun to research and put together.

  11. Marvelous ideas, most I was not aware of. Thank you Grace for the information.

  12. cheth says:

    Very nice article, thanks for the twitticious link I had lost it sometime before. Stumbled the post.

  13. Katie says:

    It was a great idea and nice read. thanks a Ton for the information once again

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