Last week, it was announced that Google will gain access to Twitter's firehose in the coming months, allowing them to index tweets in real-time. The last time Google was able to do this was in 2011. Since then, Google may have indexed Twitter content, since they had to crawl the site (and it's 500+ million tweets per day), they usually only indexed user profiles.
This deal raises a number of questions: Does Google really need Twitter? How does Twitter benefit (i.e., make money) from the deal? Does this affect my digital marketing efforts (or, why should I care)? Let's address these question one at a time.
Does Google really need Twitter?
The simple answer: yes! Google may be a search behemoth, but Twitter's where the online media and entertainment elite meet to break news, share ideas and exchange snark. Sure, Facebook and Instagram may have more users than Twitter, but it's not a large user base that Google is after. It's content. Timely, interesting and valuable content. Facebook and Instagram just don't offer that the way that Twitter does. Google's mission has always been to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Twitter is a gateway for a great deal of the world's information, reported as-it-happens by a wide and varied population.
And it's a safe bet that Google will try to monetize for increase AdWords revenue. Maybe they'll reduce the number of In the News articles and replace with ads, or maybe they'll include sponsored ads on the News tab. Maybe Google will use it as a leverage with publications to increase AdWords spend. Google hasn't confirmed any changes to AdWords or paid search placement yet, but you can expect some movement in the future because of this deal.
How does Twitter benefit from the deal?
So, Google gets its content, but what does Twitter get? Well, besides a steady revenue that Google will pay for data licensing (which for Twitter is up 105% YOY), they get more users and ad revenue. The idea is that Google searchers will see tweets in results and click through to Twitter. If they are a logged out user (someone that is simply not logged in to their account, or someone that is not yet a Twitter user) they will be invited to sign in/up, and they will be shown two to three ads. It's these "logged out" users that Twitter is so keen to get ahold of. That's how they'll increase users (a growth stat that has been slowing in recent months) and increase revenue from ads.
Why should marketers care?
There are several angles to consider here, some positive and some negative. I'm feeling pretty cheery today, so let's start with the negative so we can end on a positive note.
Reduced SERP Real Estate
The inclusion of tweets in search results is going to eat up SERP real estate. What will Google gobble up? Well, not ad space, of that you can be sure! That means organic listings are going to be pushed further down the page. If they decide to include other boxes or elements (e.g., In the News, answers boxes, etc.), that leaves little room for traditional organic links to sites. If your site doesn't rank in the top few, you risk displaying low on the first page or, I hate to even write it, on page two!
As mentioned previously, advertisers may see the potential for getting in front of users searching on real-time topics and begin to increase their spend and/or expand keyword lists. And with increase spend often comes increased CPCs. I mentioned publishers specifically for the real-time content, but it really could apply to any and all advertisers.
More Resources for Twitter Management
I'd argue that this is a positive, but would probably lose that argument. With increase exposure to Twitter content, it will make managing your Twitter profile more important. Most brands understand this now, but most do not put the full strategic focus necessary to create a robust plan for building awareness, engaging audiences and driving traffic. More focus means more resources which means more money. And the ROI on Twitter is already dismal enough compared to other social channels (not that it's what you should be focusing on anyway). This will be a hard one to justify.
Increased Twitter Activity
If you think the last disadvantage is really an advantage, well this one's for you. As Twitter users grow, so too will overall Twitter activity and engagement with your profile. And when searchers begin clicking on tweets in SERPs, you're likely to get more traffic to your Twitter account.
Ever the optimist, I can see the potential for increased traffic to your site. It's going to take at least two clicks from the SERP, maybe not the best user experience but one some are still willing to do if the information is compelling enough. I can happen though, and time will tell just how realistic this is and/or how often it happens.
New Advertising Channels
I've never found Promoted Tweets to be particularly successful. Sure, they can send traffic to your site, but I've found that traffic to be less than. But with more users accustomed to Twitter ads, users that have never experienced Twitter sans ads, maybe they won't be so reticent (or, more aptly, resentful) to click on them.
What are your thoughts on the Google-Twitter firehose deal? Opine away on Interstellar's Facebook, Twitter or Google+ profiles.