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Can Twitter Beat Google at Search?
Twitter is amassing a treasure trove of realtime data and it wants to make searching through it a better experience for you–and for advertisers. As Twitter has continued it’s transformation into a media company, and as it grows in size and revenue, it may soon find itself at war with some very entrenched, and fierce, competitors. In particular, might Twitter find itself at odds with Google over search (of all things)? Even IF Twitter is ramping up their search priorities, should Google even care? Perhaps Google would be interested in buying Twitter outright, despite reports to the contrary. Either way, our question this week is whether or not Twitter has a chance of beating Google at search. Here’s what the panel has to say:
Facebook May Trump Both Twitter and Google at Realtime Search
Yes when it comes to realtime search but Google can still win if they can grow their fledgling social platform, Goggle Plus. Automation will always play a big role in determining relevancy. I can’t see how using human powered curation will be economical for Twitter to generate accurate and quality search results and make real time search curation profitable and attractive to advertisers.
In my opinion, Facebook is currently the best positioned to take advantage of realtime search. Their users, over one billion of them, willingly share their likes and dislikes, photos of their experiences and even videos; all uploaded and posted in realtime from their mobile devices. Using that huge basket of data, Facebook’s automated analytics engine is sophisticated and well positioned to overtake both Google and Twitter in the all important race to profit from targeted, realtime online advertising.
Twitter Might Have a Fighting Chance
There’s nothing like human curiosity when it comes to real-time search, and there’s no perfect replacement for it. Not yet, at least. While Twitter clearly appreciates humans with a search-savvy touch as much as they do fancy algorithms, I doubt the social media mammoth will completely loosen Google’s search market stranglehold. Not any time soon, at least.
At most, like Bing and Yahoo (remember them?), I think Twitter’s move to pay real people around the globe to analyze real-time trending search terms 24/7 might, however, slowly nibble at the edges of Google’s tight grip.
Then again, Twitter Search might have a fighting chance after all. Why? Because it’s much more fun to search for juicy bits about “what’s happening right now” than it is to sift through Google’s non-social search results, which are often littered with paid links and other spammy, low-value links.
On a side note, according to Twitter via its engineering blog, Twitter’s brand new search army isn’t “limited to a fixed schedule or location, they can work anywhere, anytime—which is a requirement for this system, since global event spikes on Twitter are not limited to a standard 40-hour work week.” True, you never know when Lady Gaga will tweet about salad again. Being a human Twitter search wrangler sounds like a pretty cushy gig. Hmm, I wonder what the overtime pay is.
Kim Lachance Shandrow (LinkedIn) is a Los Angeles-based tech journalist who specializes in writing about social media marketing, startups, smartphones, streaming TV, mobile apps and green technology.
Twitter Won’t Rival Google Anytime Soon
I don’t see Twitter search rivaling Google search anytime soon. Promoted tweets aside, a Twitter search returns results that are directly related to things other humans actually care about—or cared enough to tweet about. This is perfect if what you’re searching for happens to have relevance among other people or if you’re looking to build relationships.
The problem is that there is not enough consistency in the quality and quantity of Twitter’s results when you consider the broader search market that Google clearly dominates. With a Twitter Search, you might hit a home run half the time, but the other half you’ll be striking out completely. With Google search, you might not get as many home runs, but you’ll definitely get several doubles and triples—and rarely strike out.
There’s certainly an opportunity for Twitter to step in with higher quality results. If Twitter search was able to consistently return more relevant, user curated results, they might be able to give Google search a run for its money. There are just not enough people talking about enough things to rival the results that Google can muster—at least right now.
Twitter Has the Data, But Lacks the Users
For many outside the marketing industry, or for users still disinterested in even Facebook on a daily basis, Twitter is still not a priority. Though it’s been said that 32% of all internet users are using Twitter, and the platform continues to grow, it is not yet engrained as a priority in the daily lives of most users. Therefore is it even further from overthrowing Google’s reign. But they do have a unique set of data at their fingertips and how they leverage that in the years to come will shape their fate.
Most internet users today can’t remember a time before Google. The act of “Googling” is synonymous with online search, while the act of “tweeting” still brings to mind a pop culture-obsessed frivolity. Therefore comparing the usage and popularity of the two is like comparing breathing to chewing gum – you can surely do without one of the two… So if Twitter aims to reach internet users and find a home in their daily search activity, the platform itself needs a makeover that focuses on search.
Instead of focusing on the constant, disorganized stream of tweets to sort through, a revised dashboard should segment tweets by category, context, location, and recent/current search behavior. And alongside this revamped visualization should be and advanced search tool that will allow Twitter users to get in and out with the data they need, same as Google. This is an element Facebook has been unsuccessful in implementing and therefore still lags behind in the search game. Twitter has the upper hand on Facebook in this situation, mainly because Twitter is so much simpler with a rather limited number of activities available, whereas Facebook users interact with photos, videos, links, games, etc. inside the platform itself. It’s easier for a new search function to get lost amongst everything else users already flock to Facebook for, while Twitter’s simplicity lends itself to much better placement and therefore much greater awareness and usage.
The use of Twitter alongside Google as an internet institution is many years away, let alone the possibility of knocking Google off the thrown. Because they have two very unique sets of data, a partnership leveraging both would be ideal for both businesses as well internet users who will have little interest in splitting time and resources across two platforms.