Lightning Striking Social Media
Amendment 13 October 2015
Google's search engine is now crawling tweets for desktop searches too. Whether there are any more updates to come to Project Lightning is yet to be seen, but this represents an important step forward in increasing the 'signals' social media activity sends to Google's search engine.
Original article 16 July 2015
Previously on Rocket Polish...Google and Twitter are getting married!
Well, not quite, it's not like they're merging or anything, at least not in a business sense. In a data and technology sense, there's little doubt that the web is being fused with social media. So what does it actually mean for us?
Those of you wondering if the arrangement of Google getting access to Twitter data benefits Google far more than it does Twitter, might like to know about Project Lightning. In short, this is Twitter's foray into news curation, with human editors highlighting stories. With the number of tweets being crawled by Google's search engine shooting up like greased lightning, let's run through some of the potential consequences of this arrangement.
Passive users of Twitter, people who only take in content and don't create or curate it, could find it easier to find breaking news. This continues the tradition of blogs of sidestepping traditional sources of news, which are continuing to lose ground to social media.
Curators could find themselves with access to new sources of content. Not only should it be easier for us, to get access to new sources of content, it'll make what we offer easier to find. If we keep offering valuable news, then we'll be more likely to attract links, increasing the likelihood that our sites will receive more visitors.
Google gains a stronger search engine through greater access to data on retweets, favourites, and followers. All of these, and what's trending, will help build positive signals for the search engine about what can be considered to be high authority, a key signal for Google.
Twitter gains traffic as a result of its tweets becoming crawlable and more discoverable by Google's search engine. With more traffic comes, potentially, more users, and/or more active users. As I mentioned with respect to Google+, having a high number of users doesn't count for much if many of them are inactive.
Twitter could be galvanised as a result of this, but can they count on exclusivity? If Google's interested in building a powerful search engine that gains greater access to news and high authority users, it's hardly in their interest to stop with Twitter. In terms of the estimated number of active users, Twitter's matched or beaten by Instagram and LinkedIn, and everyone's still dwarfed by Facebook. Can a user with thousands of followers on Pinterest really be less valuable than another user with thousands of followers on Twitter? Why should their content be any less discoverable than tweets?
If Project Lightning really strikes at the end of the year, it could give Twitter a much needed spark of life. Yes, Google are likely to be the biggest winner, but it'll also open up new opportunities for those of us creating and curating on Twitter. With some reasonable analytics, it'd enable us to nail down just how valuable Twitter is to us, and how much time we should be spending on what is still just one form of social media.
What do you think of the Google and Twitter interaction? You can share your views in the comments.