Early in 2015, Google and Twitter established a deal that would lead to real time Tweets appearing in Google search results. For example, if you were to search for Leonardo DiCaprio amongst the usual sites and news results, you also now see this:
A realtime display of Leonardo’s tweets, a display that takes up prominent real estate on the search engine results page. Back in May, Google announced that the feature would be rolled out to more countries, however the exact number of countries that this feature is currently available in hasn’t yet been revealed.
The deal came as good news for Twitter, at the end of Q4 2014 they had 288-million monthly active users in the US alone (meaning it was the fifth largest social network behind Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Instagram). However, it also meant that the company hadn’t seen double digit active user growth in seven quarters – alarming investors to no end. Twitter have said that the deal is an attempt to make it “easier than ever for users to explore interests across both Twitter and Google”.
This deal making Tweets and the platform more prominent will benefit Twitter by driving more Google-related search traffic. This new found traffic offers the opportunity for Twitter to grow its user base by converting site traffic into new users, therefore improving growth percentages that have been slowly decreasing.
Whilst this deal is great for Twitter, what does it mean for companies and brands? One of the latest trends in digital marketing is to be ‘real time’, which is a lot easier said than done. Sometimes moments of real time brilliance fall into place because the right mix of people are together at the right time, like Oreo’s ‘You Still Can Dunk In The Dark’ tweet during the 2013 Superbowl, when unexpectedly the New Orleans’ Superdome suffered a power outage that halted proceedings for half an hour.
So does this mean we all need to become real time media companies to get the most out of this fire hose deal? I think not.
At a glance, yes being real time is a huge advantage on all platforms, however being timely and knowing your audience is a lot more important. Not all companies have the ability to produce real time content. This can be down to a number of reasons. This is why I feel that it is more important to strive to be timely and relevant and utilise a content schedule than strive to be real time when the resources are not in place to match ambitions. Whilst we all look at the Oreo example and strive to achieve such viral impact, the dunk in the dark tweet only came about because the right executives where in the right place at the right time to make decisions quickly.
When a user searches for a hashtag in Google, they are presented with real time results. For example on Wednesday 21 October 2015 if you searched for
#BackToTheFuture you were presented with the below:
The tweets that show on a hashtag search are the ones deemed ‘most relevant’ and have the highest value for your query, regardless of the age of the Tweet – however in Google search results, they seem to also prioritise the age of the tweet. Google are also keeping this algorithm close and aren’t revealing how it determines which Tweets are most relevant, or why sometimes no Tweets will appear in the results. For a number of searches, the # and @ symbol are still required to bring up Twitter results.
Whilst there is no black and white formula to getting your Tweets and Hashtags featured ahead of others, optimising your Twitter account and implementing a solid strategy will certainly improve your chances (and benefit your social media efforts).
Understand what Social search is?
Given that the lines between social and search have started to blur, this seems like a logical first step to take. Twitter (and Facebook) has an advanced search feature allowing users to search for keywords, hashtags, people and places as well as filter by sentiment.
On Google, if you’re still logged into Google+, you will see contact information from your circles appearing in search results.
Understanding how social search works, from both an SEO perspective and a social perspective, will enable marketers to develop adaptive and thorough social strategies that will further advance the presence of their brands online.
Develop an ongoing social strategy and review progress on a regular basis.
Social media is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s essential to modern day consumer interaction. Whether you’re a multinational conglomerate or a small business, you must have a social presence but long gone are the days where just being present is enough.
It’s a similar story to the early days of the internet, when having a website was the ‘in thing’ and most sites were simple, placeholders with little activity. Companies then realised that blogging and producing content lead to greater organic traffic, leads and conversions.
Similarly, a company that is just present on social media isn’t going to last long and prosper. As Google and Twitter merge their algorithmic technologies, the importance of being active will be even more prominent.
My advice for marketers who don’t have the resources to be real time, be consistent with your Tweets. Whilst there is no magic formula or clear cut answer as to when you should be tweeting, you need to keep your profile active. And to take advantage of this deal you should tweet a lot.
Understand hashtags and develop a hashtag strategy
You need to remember that the purpose of hashtags is to categorise your content into topics and to link to related content, making it easier for the user to navigate what you have to offer. They can also be used to instigate conversation and raise points.
A number of studies have indicated that Tweets that include hashtags receive twice as much engagement as those without and tweets with two hashtags have a 20% higher engagement rate than those with three.
As part of your hashtag strategy, you should have some core brand hashtags – the easiest thing to do is to select your brand’s slogan (or part of).
Creating unique hashtags and using them correctly will put you in a strong position to gain exposure on both Twitter and Google search results.
See trending topics as opportunities
Trending topics should be seen as an opportunity to find ways to interact with your audience on a new level. Trends have their own importance in the Google algorithm. Google could ascertain what topics are trending on Twitter and the volumes that the hashtags are being used, but not to the accuracy that Twitter can achieve. To understand what the hashtag was about you had to search on Twitter. With the new deal in place you will be able to get the jist straight from Google search page results.
Changes to Twitter’s smartphone app have seen trending topics move to a prominent and accessible place. As the Twitter/Google relationship develops, you can bet on trending topics becoming a lot more prominent on search results pages.
As well as benefitting Twitter with increased visibility, this deal will also benefit Google in the long run. The influx of social content will improve the search engines understanding or semantic and conversational search. A better understanding of the way users search online will improve search results and relevance overall. Previously Google had been reliant on sites such as Wikipedia to understand the concept of entities. This deal acts as a further source for Google to validate and update information. If a topic is currently trending on Twitter, it will be timely and relevant, however a popular subject or cause will always carry a lot of weight.
Search engines over time have developed highly sophisticated algorithms and extraction mechanisms allowing them to easily identify the most relevant and associated information. You don’t need to massively change how you operate.
You just need to ensure that:
You’re tweeting frequently
You are utilising hashtags and keywords to their potential
You are reviewing your social strategy on a regular basis.
This way you will have a strong Twitter profile with which to take advantage of the Firehose deal.