Nabbing tweets before they fly away

By DougHaddix

Part of the challenge of Twitter is scooping up relevant tweets before they vanish into the digital abyss. My favorite low-cost tool? TweetArchivist.

The recent national Excellence in Journalism convention in Nashville provided a real-time test of the service. Results have been impressive: more than 8,400 tweets captured and downloaded into an Excel spreadsheet. Plus, TweetArchivist produces eye-catching visuals and charts with key analytics tied to a hashtag.

Here’s how it works: Simply set up an archive by typing in a hashtag, key phrase or Twitter handle that you want to track. Every hour, TweetArchivist updates the search and lassos the results. At any point, you can download the results into a PDF file or an Excel spreadsheet. Online, you can click through various charts and graphics to explore the Twitter conversation.

Pricing is flexible. I chose a one-month plan ($19.99) that allows tracking of up to three archives. That’s ideal for a conference or news event that’s contained to a short time period. A recurring monthly subscription costs $14.99 for three archives; it can be canceled any time.

For journalists, the service could be used effectively to track hashtags on the beat or key sources. During an election season, TweetArchivist could provide an automated way to gather and analyze each candidate’s campaign.

A new offshoot of the service – dubbed TagSleuth – is designed to search four services: Twitter, Instagram, Vine and Tumblr. Subscription plans start at $24.99 monthly.

As a test of TweetArchivist, I set up an archive for the conference hashtag (#EIJ14) and downloaded results a few days after the joint gathering of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio Television Digital News Association.

A few highlights:

• Impressions: The 8,418 tweets and retweets with #EIJ14 appeared 22.9 million times on Twitter feeds.
• Top users: Who posted the most tweets and retweets with this hashtag? @EIJ_News (375), @rachelcstella (203), @spj_tweets (194) and @Georgia Dawkins (175).
• Influencers: The tweeters with the largest followings who used the hashtag were @karaswisher (966,601), @NPR (370,069) and @BrianStelter (237,244). Engaging with key influencers can help spread your message or story to an even larger audience.
• User mentions: This measure gives a sense of who created a lot of buzz during a conference or news event. At EIJ14, the top three individuals were @karaswisher (791), @stevebuttry (224) and @atompkins (189).
• Hashtags: Other top hashtags in #EIJ14 tweets included #Ferguson, #Storify and #wearables.
• Source: How tweets were posted can give insights into the audience. For this conference, the top three devices were iPhone (3,368 tweets), Web browser (1,103), Android phone (851) and iPad (835).

Beyond the metrics, the spreadsheet of all 4,550 tweets (excluding retweets) gives me another option: Get highlights, tips and links from sessions that coincided with the ones I saw in person.

Doug Haddix is director of the Kiplinger Program and assistant vice president of Editorial Communications at Ohio State University.

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