Google and Twitter recently reached a deal that once again gave Google access to Twitter’s firehose. Columnist Neil Patel summarizes what we know so far and offers predictions and advice for search marketers.
Google and Twitter are back together (again). In early February, the news broke thatGoogle and Twitter had reached an agreement that will provide Google full access to Twitter’s stream.
Although we don’t know all the details, we can make a few clear statements plus some assumptions about what’s ahead for the world of search and social.
What Does Google Get From The Partnership?
The partnership means that Google now has access to the stream of tweets known as the firehose. The firehose, aptly named, sprays nearly 9,000 tweets per second (as of the time of writing) into the ether of the Internet. As if Google didn’t have to index enough information!
In the old world, Google used to crawl Twitter in order to pull out relevant tweets for search results. That didn’t work very well — try to crawl a velocity of 8,766 tweets per second, and you’ll find out why. If Google did try to crawl Twitter at the appropriate rate, Twitter might very well crumple up in a heap of server meltdown.
Instead, Google now has complete access to the firehose.
Why else would Google want to cozy up with Twitter? Because Google is about all about information – and preferably timely information. Twitter gets timely.
Users aren’t satisfied with the information that is four hours old. They want information that is four seconds fresh. That’s precisely why Twitter was invented.
When Google was a nascent startup, its founders wrote down a list of “10 Things.” Topping the list is this: “Focus on the user and all else will follow.” A little further down, at numbers three and four respectively, are, “Fast is better than slow,” and “Democracy on the web works.” The list also includes several items oriented towards the power of and need for information.
While such statements may be airily dismissed as jargony corporate mission statements (at least they didn’t use the word “synergy”!), Google has done a pretty darn good job of abiding by them.
A quick glance at the Twitter-Google mashup shows us such an alignment. It’s about users. It’s fast. It’s democratic. It’s information. In sum, it’s a pretty good idea.
What’s In It For Twitter?
This is all about massive exposure on a global scale.
Twitter isn’t exactly a backwater social media site, of course. They’re big. Unfortunately, they’ve also lost their grip on a once stalwart user base.
In 2013, 46% of their users visited the site daily. In 2014, that number dropped to 36%. Out of the top five social media sites, Twitter has the smallest market share.
According to Pew, 19% of the U.S. adult population uses Twitter. That’s nice; but compared with Facebook (58%), it’s embarrassing. Anyone weighing in alongside Facebook is going to be embarrassed, our course, but it’s especially hard for Twitter. They’re the runt of the social media litter, even if by a few percentage points, having been surpassed by younger media like Instagram and Pinterest.
Hence why they could use a protective partnership with a giant. Visibility in search results means marketing cachet like never before (since 2011, that is).
The more visitors that Twitter gets, the better. They’ll see higher ad revenue, more signups, and more engagement. Dick Costolo, Twitter’s CEO summed it up: “We’ve got the opportunity now to drive a lot of attention to and aggregate eyeballs.”
Ah, the eyeballs. And besides, Twitter loves virality. If something happens on Twitter, and Google feeds it into the stream of human consciousness, it could very well produce gargantuan influence for the social media site.
The History: Google And Twitter Used To Be Partners (It’s Complicated)
In 2009, Google and Twitter had their first rendezvous. Twitter was young and inexperienced back then. At three years old, it was perhaps enamored of the more mature Google.
As soon as the relationship started, Google unleashed something called Real-Time Search. Real-Time search was on its way to being awesome, complete with current Tweets and other instant information right alongside your search queries.
It died when the Twitter partnership went down in flames, circa summer 2011. The partnership fizzled out in part, due to Twitter’s growing pains. Ali Rowghani, Twitter’s 2011 COO, reportedly had a desire to keep Twitter’s content proprietary to users.
The partnership arrangement bit the dust. But that was then. 2011 was decades ago, as Internet years are counted. So, Google and Twitter are ready to light it up again. Both companies have grown, matured, and might be ready for something long-term and serious.
Real-Time Marketing Is More Important Than Ever Before
Twitter is the quintessential real-time news feed. It’s user generated, conversational, incessant, hashtagged, and global. Twitter has coordinated revolutions, facilitated uprisings, enhanced protest, and possibly made us stupid.
And now, these tweets are appearing in search results for the world’s most dominating search presence.
So, Where Are The Tweets?
Are you eagerly eyeing Google’s search results, waiting for your tweets to show up? Keep waiting. It could take a while – as much as “a few months” according to Marketing Land.
Google does not yet have a method of featuring tweets in search results. Do we even know what they’re going to do with them?
Bloomberg tells us that they “will start to be visible in Google’s search results as soon as they’re posted.” Most likely, Google will feature the results in the SERP, perhaps in a section like the Knowledge Graph.
I conjecture that it will work a lot like Knowledge Graph does currently. For example, a search that has real-time implications will have a real-time and constantly-changing graph section directly in the main search column. Alternately, Google may position the feed to the right of the main SERP results.
Twitter Followers Are Less Important
Who’s going to see the tweets in Google’s search? Anyone who searches on Google.
In other words, users don’t need to be following you on Twitter in order to see your tweets. Instead, tweets will enter the public searchable domain of Google. I’m certain that users will be able to limit the publicity of their tweets, as they’re currently able to do.
However, the partnership does mean a lowering of the follower walls that are currently in place on Twitter.
Social Search Is Bigger Than Ever
Social and search have intertwined into a squirming nexus of who’s-where-and-who’s-who. When Google and Twitter combine forces, it will be even harder to determine where one ends and the other begins.
Suffice it to say that search and social have become as tight as they have ever been. If you are in search marketing, you need to be aware of social. And if you’re in social, you also need to be aware of search marketing. These days, there’s not a whole lot separating the two.
Google+ Gets Squashed (Again)
What does this mean for Google+? Some see it as a sign of the impending collapse of Google+. Since pulling Google Authorship from search results, Google’s tottering social media platform has had nothing to fuel its growth.
Twitter’s partnership doesn’t bode well for Google+. By elevating an alternate social media stream above their own, Google is leaving Google+ users further behind.TechCrunch declares, “The prospect of real-time Twitter returning is yet another signal that Google is stepping off the gas for Google+.”
So, What Should You Do Now?
That’s pretty much everything you need to know. But what should you do?
- Wait. Sometime during Q2-Q3, we’ll see how Google is going to feature the tweets. A lot can happen in boardrooms, on conference calls, and at developer desks. We don’t know, can’t know, and won’t see until Google decides to unveil it. So, let’s just hang on.
- Use Twitter. Whatever the case, this is clearly a step-on-the-gas moment for Twitter. If nothing else, their company just got a ton of publicity and a nice little stock uptick. Unless you’re privileged enough to be a major stockholder, this doesn’t mean much. What will be valuable, at least as far as your ongoing marketing efforts are concerned, is your activity on Twitter. By staying engaged, learning the system, and maximizing your reach, you’ll inevitably improve your likelihood of gaining traction in the site’s upcoming upswing.