Earlier this week, Twitter launched an update to its search functionality. One of the goals: make it "easier to find and follow accounts based on your interests." As detailed on the Twitter blog, "When you search for a topic, you can now discover accounts that are relevant to that particular subject."
Given Twitter's popularity as an online marketing tool, the company's search update necessarily has implications for brands looking for more love on the site.
After all, if your company sells cookies, having your account recommended to Twitter users searching for "cookies" is a desirable thing.
So how is Twitter search working? As Poynter's Damon Kiesow has observed, search seems to have some curious preferences:
For example, when testing the new feature using 20 different city names as search terms, Groupon placed near the top of the new recommendations with amazing consistency given its relatively modest popularity and influence on Twitter.
By comparison, many accounts owned by major media organizations often did not rank as high in the search results, despite having significantly larger and engaged audiences.
Twitter has not provided detailed information about its search algorithms, so it's unclear why Groupon and others, such as the Huffington Post, seem to be outperform their apparent popularity.
Clearly, as Kiesow notes, Twitter is looking at more than the total number of followers in making its recommendations. At the same time, Groupon says that it is not paying for more prominent placement, so it seems plausible that, in some instances at least, Twitter may be manually massaging results, even if it isn't being paid to do so.
Given that Twitter isn't spilling the beans on how search works behind the scenes, it's difficult to draw any real conclusions about the factors incorporated into TwitRank, but needless to say, this will be on the mind of many marketers in the near future.
After all, as the search functionality advances, search will likely become a key component of a follower acquisition strategy. Social media or not, Twitter is a big part of many brands' social media activities, and that means some brands will be paying attention to their position in the TWERPs, not just the SERPs.