How to find new local customers on Twitter in less than 15 minutes

There are around 10 million active Twitter users in the UK which equates to 20.8% of UK internet users, with that number set to grow to 26.6% by 2017. With that many people actively talking on Twitter it’s likely very likely that your target market is also talking about products or services that your business sells; right now even, not too far from your doorstep.

If you cut through all the noise and listen to the right conversations taking place locally on Twitter, you have the opportunity to introduce yourself and convert that local customer into a sale. This method can be gold dust for businesses that only serve customers within a particular area. It’s easier than you think and I’m going to show you how it’s possible using Hootsuite in less than 15 minutes.

Set the scene…

Let’s say you’ve opened up a new clothes shop on Market Street in Manchester and you sell clothes that appeal to 18 to 34 year olds. I’ve deliberately chosen this example as Twitter penetration is the highest amongst this age demographic.If you know Manchester at all you’ll know there are plenty of clothes shops in this area and competition is fierce  - all the more reason to listen out for local customers on Twitter and stay one step ahead of your competitors.

Start the timer…

Step 1 – Find your location/co-ordinates

Go to, enter your address in the search bar and click the search button.

find geo location using google maps


Once the page has loaded with the map displaying your location, right click on the pin and select ‘What’s here’. In the search field, the  latitude and longitude co-ordinates of your location (or very close to your location) should now appear – like in the screenshot below.


lattitude, longitude geocode google maps


Copy these co-ordinates to your clipboard, you’ll need them for step 3.

Step 2 – Brainstorm customer conversations

In this step, you need to put yourself in the mindset of your customers and think of phrases they would use when considering or looking to buy something that you sell. In our clothes shop example we’d probably be interested in someone saying “I need to buy some new clothes this weekend” in their tweet. Now, everybody’s tweet will be somewhat different so we need to pick out the main keywords people would use. To start, note down a couple of keywords that demonstrate buying intent and a keyword phrase that relates to a product or service you sell. Keep things simple and broad to start with.

In our clothes shop example we could start with these buying intent keywords: “buy” & “need”

And this product keyword phrase: “new clothes”

This will be an on going process and one that you keep fine tuning as you get used to how the advanced search operators work (which I’ll come to shortly), and the more you understand which keywords your potential customers use on Twitter.

Step 3 – Add a stream in Hootsuite combining step 1 and 2

If you haven’t already, register for a free basic plan with Hootsuite. Once logged in you’ll be taken to your dashboard which will have a column saying ‘Add stream’ with various icons to choose from. Click on the ‘Search’ icon.

You’ll be presented with a search field which is where you combine steps 1 and 2 to find those local customers. Using our new clothes shop example we would enter the keywords, buy “new clothes” (new clothes with the quotation marks), then the text, geocode: then paste the geo-location coordinates, 53.482651,-2.241073 directly after the colon, no space. Then add the search radius you want to cover, 40km. If you aren’t sure of what radius to cover then use this free tool for a visualisation.

The finished search query should look something like this:

buy “new clothes” geocode:53.482651,-2.241073,40km

Click search to see your results. Below is an actual screenshot of the stream at the time of writing this post.

geocode search query stream, hootsuite


As you can see, there are people within the Manchester area actively talking about wanting to buy new clothes every single day. Granted, there’s going be the odd tweet that’s irrelevant but there will always be sales opportunity tweets worth acting on.

14 mins 37 secs – Stop the timer! That’s how you find new local customers in less than 15 minutes! :)

Before I get into some best practices about acting on those tweets let me explain a couple of advanced search operators (rules that you can apply to streams in order to filter them) that you can use to improve the relevancy of your location based search streams.

Broad keyword searches

This is the most basic search where you simply enter any keywords in any order and the stream will fetch back tweets that contain those words in any order.

Exact keyword searches  

Wrapping quotation marks around two or more words will fetch back tweets that contain those exact words in the exact order you entered them.

OR searches

Putting OR in between two keywords or phrases will fetch back tweets that mention one keyword or key phrase, or both.

Negative keywords

You can filter out keywords by putting a negative sign (-) directly in front of keywords. Tweets containing the negative keywords won’t be shown. A couple I recommend you try are -http and -RT. These are really helpful if you are seeing a lot irrelevant tweets with links in and/or seeing the same tweet twice or more because of retweets.

Click on the image below to see how the different search operators filter out certain tweets and as a result display somewhat different streams.

advanced search operators examples, hootsuite


There are other advanced search operators at your disposal but the ones covered in this post will do the job intended. If you do wish to read about the other search operators then I recommend you read this well put together post by Dan Wilkerson.

As mentioned in step 2, fine tuning your searches will be an on-going process (you can edit your searches by clicking on the downwards arrow at the top of each stream). For the ‘new clothes shop’ example I would probably get more specific and create streams for searches like need “new jacket” or shopping “new shoes”. Have a play around with different keywords and the different search operators until you have a row of streams that drip feed, potentially, new local customers 24/7.

Introducing yourself

So, you’ve got all these people showing an interest in the things you sell but how do you introduce yourself without sounding like a desperate salesperson? Really it’s all about trial and error, but because these people are already showing a desire to buy in their tweet then you can get away with being a tad salesy. There’s no ‘one magic tweet for all’ but there a few of things you should always look to do: Check out the persons bio & tweets, respond like a human, offer help and/or make them aware of any money saving offers you have – who doesn’t like to save money when shopping for new clothes?

Below are some examples of how you could respond to some of the tweets from our [buy "new clothes"] search above.

Prospect: “In serious need of some new clothes… Not liking a thing in my wardrobe at the min”

Reply: We know the feeling! Must be time for a belated spring-clean and a new dress…[Link to dresses]


Prospect: “winter is just an excuse for me to buy new clothes”

Reply: “It certainly is. Don’t forget the cable knit jumper though! We currently have 25% off our jumper range [link to offer] ”


Prospect: “Using my student loan to buy new clothes yay! :)”

Reply: “Exciting! We offer a great student discount if you need an extra helping hand : )”


Prospect: “Come on Friday – Pay Day! Need new clothes!!!”

Reply: If you’re off out to celebrate we have a gorgeous printed trouser/white shirt combo in stock! [Link to combo]”

Take inspiration from the examples above and don’t be afraid to try out new things. Don’t however, send tweet after tweet trying to lure prospects in, keep your tweets varied!


Although this can be an invaluable technique, there are some limitations to it. In order for location based tweets to show, a user has to have their location enabled for tweets in the settings turned on. If they don’t then Twitter will look for a users’ location in their profile bio and use that location instead. This can cause problems by showing tweets from people who live in one area but are actually tweeting in another area many miles away. Also, if a users’ location on their profile bio is not filled in then their tweets will never show for location based searches.

This method can be tailored to most businesses, including yours. Listening and responding to people on Twitter who need you for specific things is a natural way to build brand loyalty, capture leads and acquire new customers. I hope you found this post useful, do let us know if you have any questions in the comments section below.

By Anthony Mcloughlin of Tone AgencyRe-blogged with permission from

About Aleksej Heinze

Passport to Trade 2.0 project leader. My research interests are in the area of disruptive innovation using information technology (IT) and the use of IT in business management. Topics include: enterprise 2.0; web 2.0, international business culture, search engine optimisation, and social media marketing.