How to Use Hootsuite Stream Operators for Social Media Monitoring



My favorite social media monitoring and management solution by far and away is Hootsuite. It offers crazy good functionality, a ton of additional features, and support for what I consider the three most relevant and important social networks; Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. After hosting more than a few talks, trainings, and panels, I’ve found that I’m definitely not alone in my preference, either.

However, I’ve always felt the search operators available inside monitoring streams were a hugely underutilized feature. If you think you’re familiar with these, I’d ask you to suspend your disbelief for a moment and believe that there’s some functionality you’re missing. Let me start by telling you a little more about what stream search operators are.

Stream search operators

These are, essentially, rules that you can apply to your streams in order to filter them. In order to create a search stream, click the Add Stream button in the top left section of the Hootsuite dashboard. Then, select the Search tab from the dropdown.


Now you can enter keywords and add search filters and operators. The most obvious ‘operators’ are the keywords you use in your search query. They might look something like this:


For example, this search would show you anytime that a user tweeted something containing both ‘widgets’ and ‘collection’, but not necessarily both words back to back. This can be unhelpful if you have a product or service with one or more generic terms in the title – like, say, ‘Sandal Snorkel’. You know that it’s much more likely that when someone mentions those two words together that they’re referring to your product than if the words were separated. So how can we only see results for ‘Sandal Snorkel’?

Exact Match Searches

To create an exact match search, we’ll use an operator that probably looks familiar – quotation marks. This tells Hootsuite, ‘Only show me results that exactly match these terms’. Let’s try it with our earlier example, ‘widgets collection’.


See the difference? This can help filter useful mentions from the noise. But what if we were interested in seeing any tweets mentioning widgets or collections? Hootsuite supports those kinds of searches, too.

OR Searches

To create an ‘or’ search, simply insert OR in between your two keywords or phrases. The search will now show you anytime someone mentions one keyword or key phrase, or both.


And you can combine this with phrases you want to match exactly using quotes, like so:


You can use exact match functionality to make a phrase work like a keyword. From here on out, whenever I say keyword, I mean keyword or exactly matched key phrase.

Negative Keywords

So what if instead of needing specific keywords you were interested in seeing only tweets that mention one term but not another? Using an negative keyword operator, you can do just that – simply append a ‘-‘ at the start of any keyword you don’t want to see in your results.


In this example, we would see all tweets mentioning ‘widgets’ except those that also mention ‘collection’.

Timeframe filters

If you’re looking for historical information, or would like to ignore tweets from before a certain time period, the since: and until: operators can help you do just that. Simply append whatever your starting or ending date is after the colon, and the stream will return tweets that match those criteria. Make sure you format your dates YYYY-MM-DD. Be warned, though, that these filters tend to be a little finicky and don’t play well together.


To/From Filters

In addition to filtering by timeframe, Hootsuite also allows you to create streams that either only show you tweets from or to a particular account. The operators for these functions are to: and from:, and in order to use them, simply append the name of the particular account you would like to see tweets to or from. Of course, to just see all tweets that mention an account, perform a search using their @handle. These operators will only show you tweets that start with that particular accounts handle. These can be great for competitive monitoring and analysis.


Positive/Negative Emotions (sort of)

These filters are more fun than functional, but Hootsuite allows you to search for tweets containing happy or unhappy smiley faces. ‘Why not just search for those?’, you’re asking. Using the operator will return any variations on the smiley face of your choosing, such as “=(” instead of “:(“. However, the insight you can get from this kind of monitoring is limited, at best, since it doesn’t actually filter for negative or positive emotions, just emoticons.



The ‘?’ Operator will allow you to find all tweets containing a particular keyword and a question. This can be great to help triage your customer service efforts, or to look for users who might be interested in your product, or who you might be able to help with your own content.



Another great functionality that you can take advantage of is the ability to filter for tweets that contain links and your keyword. To do this, simply add filter:links to your search query. This can be a great way of finding content relevant to your interests, product, or vertical.

Links to your site

This one isn’t an operator so much as it is a nice trick to know. When Hootsuite is searching through tweets, it examines the complete URL of a shared link – so, if someone puts a link to your site through, Hootsuite essentially de-shortens it to take a look at the URL. This means that by simply entering in ‘’ as a search query, I’ll see any tweets that include links to our site. This is a great way to network with users proactively who enjoy your sites content, or search for content partnership opportunities.


Location-based searches

This can be helpful if you’re a hyper local company or a large brand with regional offices who need to monitor for region-specific mentions of your brand or services. In order to append location sensitivity to your search, add geocode: followed by the geographic coordinates of the area you’re interested in monitoring, and then the distance from that point you’d be interested in monitoring, in kilometers.


Don’t know what your geocode is? Here’s a free service you can use in order to get it. You can also find that information in the link to a Google Map where you’ve entered your location.


What are your favorite Hootsuite Stream search tips? Share them in the comments.

Dan Wilkerson is a former LunaMetrician and contributor to our blog.

  • Sayf Sharif

    I was wondering why you tweeted “widgets collection” at LunaMetrics. Now all is revealed!

  • Over the last year, social media monitoring has turned into a primary way of business intelligence

  • Great, useful post Dan. Thanks for sharing this information!

    Thanks for this post 🙂 Can you suggest a search-query that says ‘from this twitter stream’ AND ‘not this user’??…

    Also… is there a hidden beta feature that lets me specify Klout of the poster, or Retweet-reach?

    I’d love something like this:

    mac fix twithome:drkdev -@spamboy -@stupidcommentguy kloutmin:50 retweetreach:3 filter:links

    Finally,.. How do we re-edit the search-stream operators on an existing stream? There seems to be no edit button in Hootsuite?

    • Hey Shawn,

      As far as I know, no features exist that let you do the things you’ve described – we’ve had a working prototype that accomplished that, however, via Google Spreadsheets and the Klout & Twitter APIs. No idea on retweet reach, although I suspect that data could also be pulled in via API and sorted accordingly.

      For your first question, do you mean all tweets from a stream not made by the streams owner, i.e. retweets? That would probably look like from:@user -@user. If you tell me a little about why you want to accomplish this, I might be more helpful.


  • @Dan,. Thanks for your time!
    I want the equivalent of my home stream (everything I would normally see from my own twitter account.. or alternately a twitter list) but NOT including anything from (original or retweeted) or mentioning @spamboy

    Yes, I know I could just unfollow spamboy, but I may not want to do that for other reasons.

  • … or similarly,..

    I can imaging wanting everything posted by @IDGRAFIX (but not retweeted by others or by-others-but-mentioning-idgrafix) EXCEPT those tweets involving @OTHERUSER even if the other user mentions idfrafix.

    For example:.. This fails in two ways:
    @IDGrafix -DRKDEV

    Certainly I see nothing mentioned by drkdev, but I also see tweets NOT made by idgrafix. 🙁

  • This comes close:

    from:IDGRAFIX OR (idgrafix -RT)

    Everything from Idgrafix,.. or anything from anyone else that is not a retweet.

Contact Us.

Follow Us



We'll get back to you
in ONE business day.
Our Locations
THE FOUNDRY [map] LunaMetrics

24 S. 18th Street
Suite 100

Pittsburgh, PA 15203


4115 N. Ravenswood
Suite 101
Chicago, IL 60613


2100 Manchester Rd.
Building C, Suite 1750
Wheaton, IL 60187