6 Reasons Why Twitter is the Future of Search – Google Beware
March 11, 2009 - Written by Gyutae Park
This past week the tech world was abuzz with news of Twitter incorporating search functionality into its site. What this means is that you can now easily obtain trending data for popular keywords, take a deeper look at the topics people are talking about in real time, and find answers to pressing questions that others have already written about. So is this really significant? It depends on who you ask. Some think that Twitter is a Google killer while others argue that Twitter isn’t even a search engine at all.
Regardless of which side of the fence you stand, there’s no doubt that Twitter has a bright future with its eyes set on the search market. In fact, Twitter continues to receive millions in funding and recently turned down a $500 million offer from Facebook because of its planned business model of Q&A features and search ads. Who knew status updates could be so valuable? Meanwhile, Facebook has been adding Twitter-like features to try and keep up…
So really, what’s the big deal about Twitter? Isn’t it just a social media site used to socialize with friends? Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, goes as far as to call it the “poor man’s email system”. But the people who really get it understand the huge potential that lies within Twitter. Not only is it a way to connect and interact with others, but it also represent a huge pool of information based on everyday human life that’s ready to be mined to extract real value. Adding search functionality is just the first step in this process.
Not to mention that Twitter already has an impressive track record with various uses. For example, it helped President Barack Obama with his presidential campaign, got a student out of an Egyptian jail, documented plane crashes in real time, and made Dell a million dollars. Twitter has a huge cultish following and is promoted through a grassroots movement that we haven’t seen since…well, the beginning of Google.
Despite all of the hype, Twitter is still in its infancy and it’ll be years, maybe even a decade, before it develops the technology to accurately display search results and put a dent in Google’s market share. But regardless of all that, the point I want to make in this article is that Twitter has what it takes to get there. In other words, Twitter represents the future of search. Still not convinced? Let me explain…
6 Reasons Why Twitter is the Future of Search
1. Takes social to a whole new level
Twitter is essentially a continuous conversation that takes place online between millions of people. Imagine the insights you could gain if you were able to record and search through everyone’s conversations. Of course, it’s a lot less creepy than that but that’s the kind of tool Twitter is becoming as more and more people take part and share parts of their lives. Twitter search is the ultimate social media platform and will enable people to get the opinions of others and add context to relevant information. Searchers don’t just want facts. They want to learn more about the experiences of real people they can relate to.
For example, rather than doing a search in Google for “best restaurants in new york” and getting a bunch of review sites, you can do a search on Twitter to see which restaurants people are talking about in New York. If you don’t like the results, you can easily ask your network and get personalized answers in real time – which will then show up in future searches on the same topic.
Compare that to Google. They’ve been unsuccessful thus far in implementing social factors into the search results via Search Wiki. If you do a search in Google and can’t find what you’re looking for, what are you going to do? Probably ask around on Twitter.
2. Combats information overload
With millions of new web pages springing up every day on the Internet, who has the time or attention span to read through it all? We need filters, and that’s what Twitter provides in 140 characters or less. Twitter is great for searching for quick information and even if you’re looking for long articles, there are plenty of people who post links to relevant pages they like.
3. Real-time content
In this day and age, nobody wants to wait for anything. We live in a society where we get everything fast and can’t stand for anything else. The same applies to information and news. Until recently, we had to wait for journalists to write up reports and publish them online. Google would then index the pages and show them in the search results, but not after at least a couple of hours. Good, but not good enough.
Twitter displays real time streams of news and information. There’s no need to wait, and short of actually being there to experience the events, it’s the next best thing. Twitter has been a great tool for people to broadcast news live from their laptops and mobile phones (e.g. plane crash rescue in the Hudson River).
4. Represents the masses
Twitter levels the playing field and gives everyone a voice online. In the “Twitterverse”, information is a lot more representative of the masses rather than of big corporations and personalities who manipulate people with their ideas. Power is transferred from the controllers of the web (e.g. Google, big news companies, powerful Wikipedia editors, online publishers) to millions of everyday social media users. We’d be able to rely less on big news sources and drill down to the micro level (i.e. experiences of individuals rather than just in aggregate).
5. More trustworthy results
A big advantage Twitter has over Google is that it has the potential to be both a social media platform and a search engine. Users have the option of getting answers from their network of people who they actually trust. On the other hand, Google gives you a page of links compiled by their quality algorithm. Sure, Google returns pretty good search results most of the time, but they’re impersonal and sometimes irrelevant to what you really want. Getting in touch with your network via Twitter is the best way to get reliable information you can trust. For example, if you had a question about life in the NBA, would you rather ask Shaquille O’Neal on Twitter or type a question in Google?
6. Better targeted for location
How does Google know whether or not a page is relevant to a local geographic region? Unless the page is labeled correctly, Google has no idea. Twitter, on the other hand, can easily tie content to a location by using user profile settings or GPS (as technology advances on mobile phones). This in turn means more relevant information and ads in Twitter search.
So what are your thoughts on Twitter as a search engine? Does it have a chance to get in the ring with Google? Be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts and follow me @gyutae.If you like this post, subscribe to the RSS feed. Get the latest updates delivered straight to your email or news reader.