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Thoughts on social media analytics from the makers of TweetReach

Confused about Twitter search? You’re not alone.

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There’s one question our support team gets asked more often than anything else – how far back can TweetReach reports go? And it’s no wonder we get this question all the time; it can be pretty damn confusing. How long are tweets available? Why aren’t they available for a week or more? Why does this seem to change from one day to the next?

First, a bit about how TweetReach reports work. Our snapshot reports – both the 50-tweet free report and the full $20 report – are generated from Twitter’s Search API. You type in a search query, which can consist of one or more hashtags, keywords, usernames, URLs, and so on, and then we run that search through Twitter’s Search API to find all matching tweets. So our snapshot reports are dependent upon the tweets accessible through Twitter’s Search API.

It probably goes without saying that Twitter handles a lot of data. A lot. Twitter currently processes around 200 million new tweets a day, resulting in more than 350 billion tweet deliveries every single day. By our (very rough) estimation, there have been something like 1.75 trillion unique tweets posted in the past 2.5 years. Without getting too technical, let’s just say that it’s pretty hard to keep a service of this magnitude running. Because of this scale, Twitter can’t possibly keep trillions of historical tweets accessible to anyone at any time. Which is why when you go to Twitter Search or run a TweetReach report, you’re probably only going to find a few days worth of tweets. It’s just too hard to keep any more reliably and consistently available.

One of the things we love about Twitter – or at least that we have long since learned to live with – is that it can be a bit unpredictable. It’s a huge application with hundreds of millions of accounts; there will be occasional fail whales and things are probably going to change from one day to the next. One thing we know for sure is that it will continue to get harder and harder for Twitter to make older tweets available through search. The good news is that we’ve been doing this for a long time and have a number of ways to deal with these inevitable changes.

This brings us back to the most frequently asked of our FAQs – how far back can a TweetReach report go? The simplest answer is that our one-time snapshot reports – both the free and the full $20 versions – go back as far as Twitter’s Search API does. And right now, the Twitter Search API goes back a few days (the exact number varies, so check here for current conditions). The more in-depth answer is that, if we know about your event, campaign, or promotion in advance, we can use our TweetReach Pro service to track and save your tweets for weeks, months or even years. TweetReach Pro comes with Trackers, which connect to Twitter’s real-time Streaming API instead of their historical Search API. This means we can actually save your tweets on our own servers the moment they’re posted to Twitter, and then you can access them later because we’re not dependent on Twitter keeping those tweets available.

So, if you’re confused about your search results or curious about what tweets you can retroactively access, let us help you. Seriously, we’re here if you have any questions – just ask!

Photo credit: Search. by Jeffrey Beall

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Written by Jenn D

July 26th, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Posted in Guides,Help

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