A lot has been going on in the Twitterverse recently. They’ve made some important changes, many of which are designed to change the way you use Twitter, both as a social medium and a software.
In late January, Twitter’s VP of Product Kevin Weil said that their goal with these changes (and by implication future changes) is to “tell you what’s happening in the world and your world.” That’s a pretty apt description if you ask me. Here's the first of those changes - a partnership with Google.
Twitter and Google Are Back Together
You may recall that between 2009 and 2011, tweets showed up in Google search results as a part of a deal called “Google Realtime Search.” At the time, Twitter didn’t have an archive search function of its own, but they chose not to renew the deal in 2011 to maintain more control over their own content.
Today, Twitter’s user numbers are suffering (they didn’t meet their goals last quarter, and have fallen from the #2 social network a year and a half ago to #4 today), so it seems that anything that could expand their reach is back on the table.
The new deal, which was announced at Twitter’s 4th quarter earnings report last week, will hook Google up to Twitter’s “firehose feed,” where tweets appear at a much faster rate than in the News Feed. You'll start seeing tweets in your Google search results in a few months.
How could this possibly affect me?
There are downsides to having this information on Google. A number of news agencies, high-frequency trading firms, and similar organizations also subscribe to Twitter's firehose feed, and their access alone has had serious impacts in the past.
For example, the Dow suffered a brief but precipitous drop in April 2013 when a false story about a White House bombing was tweeted from a hacked AP account, and then widely retweeted. In fact, gaming this system with fake bot accounts has become something of a trade secret for penny stock promoters. Fake accounts currently make up about 14% of Twitter’s active users, and this deal is not likely to decrease that number, or discourage baddies of all types from trying to take advantage.
On the other hand, the data sharing could lead to better analytics, so businesses may see some benefit from that as well as from the potential for their content to reach a wider audience. As a content marketer, I certainly find it a little bit exciting that tweets, particularly those targeting long tail keywords, could help my content reach more people more effectively.
As a searcher, you’ll just notice, uh, tweets in your search results – unless you’re not logged in to Twitter. When you click on a tweet that shows up in search results but you're not logged in, you’ll be redirected to a login page with ads, through which you can also sign up for Twitter (of course).
What Twitter hopes to gain from this is pretty clear–more followers, more relevance–but what they stand to lose is interesting too. If people use this model over Twitter’s search, they’ll be sidestepping their News Feeds and all the ads and promoted tweets, trends, accounts, and videos that are Twitter’s main source of revenue.
If fewer users engage on Twitter via Twitter's own interfaces, the value of Twitter ads could drop, which would also be bad for Twitter. Average revenue per user is directly tied to "eyeball time" (my term), so if Twitter users are interacting with Twitter more through Google and less through Twitter's own interface, the value per user drops and so does Twitter's revenue–and their drive to gain more users increases.