Big Ideas, Delivered With Impact

Tweepsurfing: What It Is and Why All Writers Should Do It

In Writing on May 7, 2009 at 4:16 pm

By Tim Beyers

You use magazines, books, newspapers and even TV for story ideas. Why not Twitter, too? It’s easy if you know how to tweepsurf.

tweepsurfing-v11Tweepsurfing — literally — is searching your friends’ and followers’ tweets for content that interests, intrigues, or challenges you. I do it as often as possible, which is usually weekly due to the demands of a daily deadline. Your schedule may allow for more wave-catching. If so, great. Just be sure to adopt a routine that you can stick to.

Once you’ve found content that you like or want to use, save it using one of these tools:

Twitter. Clicking the “favorite” button at Twitter — usually represented as a gold star — stores posts to your profile. For those who use Twitter clients such as TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop, clicking on your tweep’s icon should activate a sub-menu where you can choose to “like” or “favorite” the tweet you’re reading. Refer back to the “Favorites” tab on your home screen when you’re ready to review.

Delicious. Say you’ve found a post that contains a helpful link. Use Delicious to bookmark it. Delicious is a social bookmarking service that allows you to save, categorize and tag sites according to your tastes. You can also share your finds with other users of the service. (Geek tip: Search Delicious to find out who has bookmarked your blog.)

Mostly, I use Delicious to build archives of article reference material. I’ve also used it to bookmark submission guidelines for later entry into The Freelance Writer’s Helper — anything to clear my otherwise terminally-messy desk. Editorchat also has a Delicious archive. There, you’ll find stories that reflect how co-moderator Lydia Dishman and I are thinking about the business of publishing. We’ll sometimes refer to it in planning discussion topics.

Tools make tweepsurfing more lucrative. But you needn’t have any in order to profit from browsing your personal Twitterverse. Kate Sherrod, who writes daily sonnets at her blog, says tweepsurfing supplies inspiration. Freelance writer Jen Nipps says she has a couple of articles “in [the] planning stages because of different things I’ve seen on Twitter.”

Novelist Sascha Zuger, whose tweepsurfing has helped her with assignments for Food Network Magazine, Wired, and Parents, among others, likens the practice to old fashioned man on the street reporting. “Twitter’s just the latest form of hitting the streets, in a virtual way,” Zuger says. “I used to scan and randomly wander through blogs in the same way, but Twitter’s condensed nature offers better time management value and conveniently lands right in my stream.”

Precisely. When you’re a freelancer and thirsty for ideas, it sometimes pays to drink from the firehose.


  1. I’ve gotten ideas for non-writing projects from Twitter, so it does make sense that I could find some inspiration for writing as well.

  2. I use social tools to bookmark some of the more interesting stuff that I find, but because I have so many of my bookmarking tools syndicated through sites like FriendFeed, I have to be careful about posting links to things when I’m working on articles. Leaking spoilers probably isn’t even something that I should be worried about, but it is something to consider if you plan on leveraging the public tools that are out there.

  3. I agree. I use Twitter as a source of inspiration all the time. It’s also a good place to find out about new tools to review.

  4. […] Tweetsurfing: what it is and why all writers should do it – Motley Fool writer Tim Beyers explains the finer points of trolling Twitter for interesting tidbits that could turn into story ideas. […]

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