The data collected on Twitter may create interesting new opportunities for search engines, and that's why the major search engines, including Google, Yahoo and Bing, have done deals to gain access to Twitter's firehose.

But applying Twitter data to search in a meaningful way has proven to be a bit tough. Although there's the potential to use Twitter data as a signal for traditional SERPs, or to display 'real-time' results within the SERPS, search engines are also interested in providing consumers with search experiences explicitly built around real-time information.

Case in point: Microsoft's Bing, which a couple of months ago launched Bing Social. Billing it as "the first search experience" based around the Twitter and Facebook firehoses, Bing Social is essentially, in part, a dedicated Twitter search engine. But, as I've pointed out, it's not really all that useful.

So one might assume that Google would take a cue from Bing and know how not to build a real-time search offering. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

Yesterday, Google announced the launch of Google Realtime Search to the world, and it feels a lot like Bing Social. Realtime Search is essentially Google search for tweets. The results page listing the latest tweets is almost a mirror image of Bing Social's, which is nothing to write home about. The primary problem: there's a lot of chaff, and it appears that both Bing Social and Google Realtime Search have forgotten that it's all about the wheat.

To be sure, there are a few useful features. There's a simple graph showing the volume of tweets for a particular search phrase. There's also the ability to set up Google alerts based on a real-time search, to view a "full conversation" and to filter tweets geographically.

But even though these might impress some users, overall, the overall search experience is unlikely to make Google Realtime Search a mainstream hit. There's just not enough substance or quality.

Ironically, Realtime Search might make for a decent poor man's reputation monitoring tool. Tweet volume graphs, alerts and geographic filters will probably be far more interesting to social media managers, business owners and others who are using social media for more than casual use than they will be to the average consumer.

From this perspective, it might be worthwhile for search engines to rethink how they're positioning their real-time search products. Right now, they fall far short as consumer-oriented products, which is why targeting them at the consumer audience may be ill-conceived. They can't succeed in that market, but they could serve as the foundation for some real-time oriented business tools. The first search engine to figure out that the target audience isn't always the consumer will win in this space.

Patricio Robles

Published 27 August, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2642 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (4)

John Courtney

John Courtney, CEO and Executive Chairman at Pay on Results SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Digital PR, PPC & CRO from Strategy Digital

Maybe search and social media shouldn't be combined in one set of results? Maybe in future we will see web search and social media search as different things?

almost 8 years ago


richard cowley

You're not saying what you'd like to see -  'substance, quality, wheat from chaff' doesn't really get to what you perceive as the problem. Is it simply scrolling all tweets on a given subject based on the timeline, inclusive of spam and from accounts with no authority? I'm not sure it's quite that basic, there is a reputation management algorithm in place, maybe just not stringent enough for your tastes? Maybe the only way to combat this is by manual filters e.g. 'do not show tweets from users who are less/more followers... etc etc'

almost 8 years ago


Siddharth Goyal

I think we tend to judge things way to0 early. You never know what people might start liking since people are unpredictable. I had personally laughed off twitter when I first read about its concept (I think it was in Reader's Digest) but now I don't need to say anything about that.

That said, Google is having some tough luck lately with its new "innovative" offerings and it is falling flat on its face more often than usual. But hey, that's how you impove: By failing. Maybe in time, this article might feature in one of those "archived articles that got it completely wrong" category :D.

almost 8 years ago


Shyam Kapur

This is a good post. Check out TipTop to see how real-time search can be effective.

almost 8 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.