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Employer Branding Ideas
London, UK
Post Topsy Survival Kit: The Best Replacements
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Pablo says vaya con dios Topsy

As you may have heard, the beloved Topsy has been shut down by Apple, Topsy’s new owner:

Now, I won’t go into detail as to why Apple shut it down, or how invaluable Topsy was and why this matters – Andrew Hutchinson from Social Media Today does an incredible job at explaining it in detail here.

The main question I’ve been asked, and the main question I’ve seen on Twitter, is: “so, what tool shall we use now?”.

You won’t find that answer on the Topsy website, especially since it now redirects to a page on Apple.com about Siri (not that Siri is a helpful replacement):

So, what replacements should you go for? I briefly touched upon this on Twitter, but I quickly realised that this was bigger than Twitter, so what better place to discuss Topsy replacements than Link Humans?

First things first, you won’t find a tool that works just like Topsy: Topsy was one of a kind for its simplicity and depth of information. What you can find, however, is a replacement for the features that you used to rely on Topsy for. Perhaps you used Topsy for its simple graphs, or just for some stats on mentions and reach; perhaps you only used it to search for hashtags, or maybe to run some advanced searches.

So, instead of writing a long list of tools, here’s a list of replacements based on some of Topsy’s most liked and most used features, namely:

  • keyword and hashtag mentions
  • advanced search
  • searching for links
  • finding influencers

I’ll recommend the best few for each category.

Keyword and Hashtag Search

Topsy was built with one main reason in mind: to let you search for keywords and hashtags on Twitter, simple as that. Their simplicity in their approach and their in-depth analytics quickly made them the favourite tool for so many marketers. Now that Topsy is gone, here are some of the best free tools that let you do just that.

  • Keyhole: Keyhole is a real-time social monitoring tool that lets you search for keywords, links, and hashtags. One of the benefits of using Keyhole is that you can search for keywords and hashtags not only on Twitter, but on Instagram too. It’s free to use if you want to search for mentions from last week, or for any ongoing mentions; if you want to look at data older than 7 days you’ll have to subscribe to its monthly or yearly plans (starting from £90/$130). If you’re not ready to pay but you’d like to test it anyway, you can either get their free trial or join their basic plan, which gives you full access to the tool for 3 queries (“trackers”) capturing up to 5,000 mentions. While Keyhole doesn’t offer any stats on sentiment, you’ll find pretty much any other metric that Topsy used to give you, including engagement, reach, demographics, and influence. Keyhole gets a special mention from me for showing stats on potential reach and potential impressions (oddly enough, they’re one of the very few social analytics tool that actually get the difference between the two metrics).
  • Hashtracking: just like Keyhole, Hashtracking lets you monitor hashtags on both Twitter and Instagram. The only thing that Hashtracking will ask of you is to authenticate your search with your own Twitter account, but not to worry – you’ll only need to do this once, and they won’t use your credentials to post to your account without further permission from you (very important if you’re using your brand account to authenticate your search…which I wouldn’t recommend anyway, unless you regularly go through your list of authenticated applications). Once you’ve put in the hashtag you want to track, Hashtracking will quickly give you basic stats on it: volume of mentions, broken down by original tweets, @mentions and retweets of that hashtag. You can also get stats on potential reach and potential impressions (which Hashtracking refers to as “timeline deliveries”, the most accurate definition of Twitter impression). If you want to get more stats, you can select “Enhanced Results” to get a full view of all the mentions, the people who have mentioned the hashtag, and any influencers among them. Hashtracking is definitely useful if you’re looking for basic stats on your hashtag. If you want a bit more flexibility, you’ll have to pay at least £20/$30 per month, and in return you’ll get exports of your mentions, ongoing tracking, sharing functions, real-time monitoring and much more. While Hashtracking is very direct in its approach to social monitoring (no fluff, just stats), it gets a special mention from me mainly for one feature that I’ve yet to see major social listening tools fully adopt: ColorTracking. This feature lets you do some really cool reporting on the colours used in Instagram pictures based on your monitored keywords/hashtags. (Click here to see ColorTracking in action.)
  • Talkwalker: Talkwalker offers a free search tool to track keywords and hashtags over 7 days. They’ll only ask you to create a free account before showing you your results, and it’s totally worth it: out of the free alternatives to Topsy, TalkWalker is easily one of the most flexible ones out there. You can filter your data by media type (e.g. news, blogs, forums, social network), by location (countries and continents), by language (you have about 190 languages to choose from), by sentiment, by media content (i.e. whether the post contains audio, images or video) and by device used (useful if you want to segment your search by mobile sharers vs. desktop sharers). If you don’t mind only being able to see 7 days worth of mentions, this is as close as you can get to a premium social listening tool. If you like the free search tool, you can upgrade to have unlimited access to Twitter’s firehose and deeper analytics, including competitive analytics (e.g. benchmarking), page analytics (e.g. profile activity, trend analysis), user analytics (e.g. influencers, audience analysis, demographics), and performance analytics (e.g. engagement, reach, sentiment, content performance). All of this will set you back at least £420/$700, and you can see what you can get for each plan here.
  • TweetReach: TweetReach lets you track any URL, as well as keyword, hashtag and account, and all they ask in return is that you authenticate using your Twitter account. One of the great things about using TweetReach is that you can easily share your free dashboards just by sharing the page URL, which is uniquely attached to your dashboard. That means that you can easily share your searches with anyone, even if they’re not TweetReach users. In terms of metrics available, you’ll get your number of mentions, estimated reach and impressions (kudos to TweetReach for getting it right), stats on activity, including most retweeted content and top contributors. You also get the full list of contributors (i.e. people who Tweeted or retweeted any content that matches your search) and a timeline of all those Tweets, so you can see how those mentions panned out over time. In a clean layout, TweetReach manages to include the most relevant stats about any hashtag. While the free search will only return the most recent 100 Tweets, you can always upgrade to the paid plans, starting at £70/$99 per month. There’s another reason why I mention TweetReach: its parent company, Union Metrics. Union Metrics offers an arsenal of great social analytics tools, covering Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram (which you can trial here for free). They also offer multi-channel social media analytics, if you want to monitor accounts across different social platforms. Worth mentioning is also their latest product, Echo, which lets you tap into their full Twitter archive.

Advanced Search

While Topsy was great for quick searches of hashtags and keywords, it was also great for its use of advanced searches. You could, for example, search for all Tweets from me linking to the Link Humans site (just by writing “from@fr314 site:linkhumans.com”), or all my Tweets about “marketing”, “social media” or “wine” (there’s quite a few of them) (just by writing “from@fr314 marketing OR “social media” OR wine). Now that Topsy’s gone, here are the best 5 tools you can use to find specific Tweets via advanced search:

  • Keyhole: Keyhole is one of the most flexible tools when it comes to advanced searches. You can search for keywords, hashtags, URLs, on both Twitter and Instagram; you can also filter mentions from specific users if you want, or filter them out if they’re not relevant. Keyhole goes the extra mile with a feature that you’ll rarely find in other free tools: subcategories, to segment your search. Say you’re looking for mentions of #marketing, but you also want to see how many of them include the hashtag #socialmedia or #socialmarketing. You can add “social media” and “social marketing” as subcategories, to see how both hashtags trend over time. This is great if you want to see what makes up a trend or how people talk about a specific topic, and it’s very similar to Topsy’s comparison feature, as well as Google Trends’ own features (this is what that search would look like using Google Trends comparisons), .
  • Social Mention: Social Mention is very simple in its approach, and it looks very much like Topsy’s previous interface before Apple acquired it (if you were a long-time user of Topsy, you’ll see exactly what I mean when you land on Social Mention’s website). That’s definitely a bonus for ex-Topsy users who will feel right at home using Social Mention. Its search wizard is pretty easy to use, letting you search for keywords or phrases; it’ll also let you exclude keywords and accounts too. Social Mention monitors over 80 social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Digg etc. In terms of stats, you’ll find sentiment, potential reach, and two metrics that you may find useful if you need to report on influence and impact: strength (i.e. the likelihood that a keyword is being discussed on social media) and passion (i.e. a measure of the likelihood that people talking about a keyword will do so repeatedly, a metric that comes close to measuring social advocacy).
  • EpicBeat: EpicBeat is a fairly new tool which doesn’t get mentioned enough, but it totally should. While you can search for any keyword/hashtag, you can also refine your search by site as well as content type. So, if you’re looking for listicles, podcasts, infographics, guest posts, giveaways, interviews etc., EpicBeat’s clever algorithms will filter right down to the content you need. The filters are just as powerful as the advanced search operators, which let you search by keywords (by inclusion or exclusion), URLs and social accounts. If you’re aiming for accuracy and flexibility, EpicBeat is your friend.
  • Twitonomy: Twitonomy is primarily a social analytics tool that can measure anybody’s performance on Twitter, whether it’s for your own account or someone else’s. It has some pretty cool features, such as followers’ reports (to get insights on your followers, including their influence, engagement, location and more) and home timelines, which lets you see the home timelines of any user (as long as they have a public account), so you can see what their timeline looks like. Twitonomy doesn’t only offer in-depth analytics around accounts but keywords too with its Search Analytics feature: Twitonomy has a long list of advanced search operators, similar to Twitter’s own Advanced Search (which we’ll cover in a bit). In fact, the only thing you can’t filter by is language: by default ,Twitonomy will return all mentions of your chosen keyword regardless of language. If that’s not an issue for you, you should totally bookmark Twitonomy.
  • Twitter Advanced Search: if you’re only looking to find specific Tweets and you don’t need any stats or charts or anything fancy, look no further than Twitter’s own Advanced Search. You can always use it to refine your searches, and it’s really helpful if you want to look for mentions of keywords and hashtags in any language. You can also search for mentions of and from a specific account, or mentions in a specific location. As this is straight from Twitter, you don’t even have to worry about access to the Firehose, as you’ll be able to search for Tweets from any date since the first public Tweet in 2006.

Link Searching

While social monitoring and social listening will let you search for keywords and hashtag, a lot of them won’t let you search by URL. That means that if you’re searching for all Twitter shares of a link, or all shares from a website, you have a limited number of tools that will let you do so, most of which will need you to pay a one-off fee or a monthly subscription. Topsy used to do this very well, for free; now that it’s gone, here are the best alternatives:

  • Keyhole: there doesn’t seem to be much that Keyhole can’t do, and link searching is something that Keyhole does really well. You have two options with this tool: you can either search for a specific URL, and Keyhole will return all mentions from people sharing that same link in their Tweets; alternatively, you can search for a domain (e.g. “linkhumans.com”), and Keyhole will show you everyone who’s shared any links from that website. So, searching for “linkhumans.com” will show you everyone who’s shared any posts from this site. When using this feature, you can also sort by “Pages”, to see which posts people have shared the most.
  • Buzzsumo: Buzzsumo has been a longtime favourite among hundreds of agencies (including DigitasLBI, HubSpot and Ogilvy), publishers (including BuzzFeed, National Geographic and The Telegraph) and brands (including Spotify, Yahoo! and IBM). You’ll just need to use it for 5 minutes to understand why! You can search for any domain or URL and see how it performed on social media, based on shares on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+. If you want to go deeper, you can get on their paying tier to see backlinks to your site or any other site, useful if you want to see who’s directing traffic to your competitors. While you can use Buzzsumo for the odd search, it’s an incredibly powerful tool to have for content marketing. For a few tips on how to get started, you should totally check out this interview Buzzsumo’s co-founder Steve Rayson.
  • FollowTheHashtag: this tool will let you search by link, showing you not only the number of shares, but also a list of the top shares, demographics, and a bit of content analysis too. You should definitely use FollowTheHashtag if you need the answer to at least one of these questions: what keywords do people regularly use when sharing content from my site? Are there any patterns in terms of topics when people share links from me? How likely are people to retweet links pointing to my site? This tool also offers some great insights into best hour of the day and best day of the week to share content from your site, looking at ongoing engagement. Granted, that needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, but it’s definitely interesting to see how that changes between your site and your competitors’ – is it on par, or are there any notable differences?

Finding Influencers

Whether you’re running a campaign or you’re just tracking brand mentions, it’s important to know your audience well, and the influencers within it. Topsy had a section that looked specifically at influencers, giving users an in-depth view of who the influencers of a topic were. If you used to rely on that feature from Topsy, here are a few great tools that can give you the same:

  • Tweetbinder: you can use Tweetbinder to rank sharers by their activity (how many times have they tweeted about a topic?), their retweets (how many times have they retweeted content about that topic?), follower count, potential reach, and “top photographers” (the Tweeters who have posted the most pictures about that topic). You can also see how each contributor performs across these rankings (so if user A is the most followed contributor, is s/he also the contributor with the highest potential reach?).
  • Buzzsumo: Buzzsumo has a dedicated search function for influencers, which lets you search for keywords in people’s bios, a feature that a lot of “premium social listening tools” currently lack. Granted, not every social media influencer will have “social media” in their bio, but it’s definitely a good start. You can use Buzzsumo’s filters to sort these influencers by followers as well as the type of engagement (retweet ratio, reply ratio, and average retweets). Then, once you’ve found the influencers you’re looking for, you can always export them in an Excel spreadsheet, or add them to your own Twitter lists.
  • EpicBeat: every marketer’s definition of an influencer is different, and EpicBeat understands that. That’s why they pick the people who talk about a topic and use different ways to rank these people, to cater to your every definition of an influencer. Out of all the free tools I’ve used, I can honestly say that EpicBeat has the best approach to influencer identification. It identifies the influencers which you can sort based on your definition of influence: you can choose influencers by how prolific they are (how often they post online), or by how often they retweet, or by how often they engage with other people, and other filters. You can then sort them by engagement or by the size of their audience, and once you’ve played around with the filters, you’ll have your custom list of influencers. You can see their top stats as well as a clear analysis of how they use Twitter (e.g. are they more likely to engage in conversations rather than retweeting? Do they like Tweeting with pictures or other media, or do they prefer text? How often do they link to other sites?). Once going through these stats you’ll have a much better understanding of the influencers engaging in conversations around any topic of your choice.

Honourable Mentions

There are so many more tools that you could use, but here are a few more, in case you want to try something different. These aren’t direct Topsy alternatives as they don’t offer all the main features that Topsy used to have, but they’re definitely the leaders in their niche categories:

  • RiteTag: RiteTag specialises in hashtag analytics. RiteTag was built to suggest the best hashtags based on the content of your Tweets, as well as reach and popularity – think of it as a “hashtag coach”. While it’s a great tool to use if you want to improve your own use of hashtags (or if you’re not sure what hashtag to use in your Tweets), RiteTag offers two other tools: the first one is hashtag analytics, to see detailed stats for any hashtag, including number of mentions, exposure (potential reach), engagement, usage (to see how many people use a hashtag with images or links?), influencers, and demographics; in this way you can also see your own mentions of that hashtag, while RiteTag suggests other keywords that would’ve made your Tweet perform better (based on reach and performance), giving you great suggestions on how best to craft your Tweets to get the biggest impact. You can preview that analysis here for the #linkhumans hashtag. The second best feature from RiteTag is the trend analysis for hashtags, showing the main hashtags that people associate with your hashtag of choice. So, for instance, for Tweets that include the #linkhumans hashtag, RiteTag suggests using the hashtags #smlondon, #lifeatlinkhumans and #socialmarketing for a longer Tweet lifetime, but definitely not #rt, #jobs and #hiring as they’re overused, so they may not get the same engagement (you can see the other recommendations here). You can easily integrate these tips in your own analytics and content marketing, to see how you’re performing when it comes to your hashtag usage.
  • Tagboard: Tagboard is a free tool that lets you stream mentions of a keyword, account or hashtag in real-time. You can use this to see mentions of a campaign or trend, and you can also visualise it all on an external monitor. Their scope goes beyond Twitter, as they also monitor public Facebook posts, Instagram pictures and videos, Google+ posts, Vines and content from Flickr (you can filter it to show just the platforms you’re interested in). You can use Tagboard in a number of ways, including embedding timelines on your website (it looks great on desktop and mobile), or showing a stream of mentions on an external display (great for events). You can also integrate Tagboard in your video broadcast, although this requires assistance from the Tagboard team. The free version of Tagboard doesn’t offer that many stats, besides the number of mentions and sentiment (both of which update in real time). However, if you’re mainly interested in seeing mentions in real time, this is a great solution.
  • Hashtagify: this tool specialises in hashtag analytics. The main features of the free version are “related hashtags”, showing you how other keywords and trends are related to your hashtag of choice, and a list of the top trending hashtags over time, in a view that’s a lot more helpful than the Top Trends list on Twitter. In this view you can see the hashtags that are popular now, as well as hashtags that trended last week and last month. In addition to that, you can also see any hashtags that are “breaking out” (i.e. that are likely to trend soon). Check out a preview of Hashtagify’s trend listshere.
  • Trendsmap: Trendsmap focuses on geotagged Tweets. If you’re mainly looking to see real-time mentions or trends on a map, you should check out Trendsmap. This is extremely useful during an event or a crisis, as it lets you see what’s happening and where it’s happening. If you’re interested in Twitter trends in general, I also recommend following their Twitter account too: @trendmap.


There’s another feature that we haven’t talked about yet, and that’s pricing – not so much a feature, but definitely an aspect that Topsy was notorious for. Despite having paid plans, anyone could use it for free, without even signing up for an account; searching for mentions on Topsy was just as simple as a Google search. Topsy was the only Twitter Firehose licensee giving people unlimited access to Twitter’s archive, for free. (They managed to do this by building their own archive of Tweets dating back to May 2008, and using the Twitter Firehose to backfill the remaining Tweets dating back to the first Tweet in 2006.) With Topsy leaving, there’s no free 3rd party tool that will let you track Twitter’s historic data – not the way Topsy used to do it.

So, if your main factor is pricing, what other free or inexpensive tools could you replace Topsy with? I would definitely recommend any of the tools I recommended in the previous section, but the list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention these two:

  • Mention: if you want to track mentions of a keyword, Mention is a basic approach to social listening. If you want any reports around these mentions, you’ll have to get on their paid plans, but if you’re only interested in having mentions of a keyword handy, then this is a great option.
  • Microsoft Social Engagement: little known fact, Microsoft has a social listening tool called Microsoft Social Engagement (MSE). MSE offers more than just social listening: they include social analytics, social engagement, as well as social CRM capabilities. You can get all of this for £40/$65 per month, which is pretty cheap compared to other premium tools offering the same capabilities (most of which will charge you in the thousands). They also offer live visualisations, which usually come as a separate product (if at all) for most premium social listening tools. If you want to start monitoring social media for your brand, no matter how small or big, Microsoft Social Engagement is definitely a great start.

Topsy Post-Mortem

So, what will be the future of Topsy? We don’t really know yet: Topsy’s founders haven’t said much about it on Twitter besides some farewell Tweets…

…and Apple have been silent about it. The fact that Topsy’s page redirects to Siri’s page on the Apple site hints at Topsy’s technology being folded into Siri and/or iOS’ search feature, which currently relies heavily on Bing and Wolfram Alpha.

Could Apple be planning to release a social tool perhaps? The chances are slim, but never say never – after all, it wouldn’t be different from what their competitor Microsoft are doing. If anything, if the long-running rumours of Apple rolling out their own search engine will ever become reality, it only makes sense for Apple to power it with Topsy’s smart technology. Rumours aside, it’s more likely that Apple will boost Siri and its search capabilities on iOS and OS X to include really powerful stats, although we’ll have to wait until mid-2016 to see that happen.

Topsy will certainly be missed and will be remembered as the favourite tool for so many marketers, brands and agencies too, for its simple approach to social analytics, making it visual, clear and uncomplicated.

Oh Topsy, you’ll be missed.

“Do you believe in life after Topsy?”

[Featured image: Gil C / Shutterstock.com]