Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Googling Twitter, or,
Twittering Google

In yet another in an ongoing series of pet peeves of mine is the constant discussion about Google and Twitter. Which is the better search engine? Who will businesses pay more attention to to find out just what the customers are saying? Can Google compete with the awesomeness of Twitter's real-time search results?

These questions, quite frankly, are ridiculous. They almost read as though they were written by someone who didn't understand what Google or Twitter is/does. Try Googling any particular phrase from your Twitter feed. What's the result? You get your main profile page, if that. My second Twitter message ever doesn't turn up in the search.

The sheer volume of people out there using Twitter, the constant updating and flow of information across Twitter will overwhelm any search engine not dedicated solely to Twitter itself and nothing else. Perhaps you may have noticed an increase in Twitter down time. Perhaps you may feel that you are on more intimate terms with the Fail Whale than some of your coworkers. That's a result of extreme growth coupled with Twitter's slowness in getting additional servers up and running and their tinkering under the hood to provide additional services.

The point is, however, that Twitter is an awesome and amazing data stream, but it will never, ever, ever replace Google as a search engine, for very obvious reasons.

First off, there is no real upside for Google to begin collating every single blip, bleep, and squeak of every single Twitter user. None at all. Are there really that many users out there who want to know what someone's tweeting about fig newtons? I doubt it. The volume of Twitter data would overwhelm even Google, especially as they've tasked themselves with documenting every other corner of the web they can reach, not to mention all the books, blogs, maps, medical records, patents and every other nook and digital cranny they have their fingers into.

Twitter has their own search engine, thank you very much, and it does what it was designed to do very well. Do you really want to find out what people are saying about fig newtons? Here you go. If marketers and businesses and organizations and data junkies want to know what's going on through Twitter they can check the search, they can check hashtags, they can check Nearby Tweets or Yahoo! Sideline or Tweefind or any one of a hundred thousand million new sites that seem to pop up every single day.

But the number one single reason that Twitter will never replace Google for getting at what people are saying is so obvious that I'm astonished I have to say it at all.

Twitter searches only find out what people are saying on Twitter. It doesn't matter if Twitter has just over one million active users or 12 million current accounts. It doesn't matter if Twitter has over 25 million users. In the United States alone there are over 306 million people, almost three quarter of which are adults. If you shoot for 12 million users of Twitter, your demographic sampling is about half a percent. Plug those figures into worldwide population and you can see why Google's going to dwarf Twitter every time. Everyone is online somewhere. Google can find them. Twitter, not so much.

With smart use of filtering and various boolean operators, data junkies can get a much broader picture of what's being said about their brand by sticking to Google. If they want to know what Twitter users are saying about their brand, that's a whole different proposition. But the idea that somehow Twitter's going to take over from Google as the search gold standard is so ludicrous I can't understand why otherwise intelligent people write about it as though it were a going proposition.

No comments: