In February 2015, Google made the surprise move of announcing a partnership with Twitter. The Google Twitter partnership deal ended years of acrimony between the two companies and underlined Google’s intent to bridge the gap between Search and Social Media, a goal that had long been the driving force behind its creation of Google+. The full extent of the partnership is still unknown (there are rumours Google will eventually buy Twitter), but it’s clear that in 2016 Search and Social will become fundamentally integrated, and that, especially in our time of hashtag focused TV adverts, Search-centric optimisation of Social Media is a discipline that may become more important.
Google used to feature links to Twitter in its Search results, but in 2011 the companies fell out, only re-establishing dialogue this year. In February, Twitter granted Google access to its ‘firehose’ (the stream of all tweets posted by Twitter users), meaning Tweets could again become part of the results Google provides for related keywords. They no longer appeared as simple links though; instead Google styled the results, showing a handful of popular tweets in a neat side-scrolling box.
A search for a brand, person, event, subject or hashtag can produce these results. The user doesn’t have to do anything different to find them: they don’t have to add the @ symbol when looking for a specific handle, and when searching for a hashtag, they don’t have to include the hashtag itself, just the phrase. As ever on Google, if the company’s algorithms deem the Twitter results relevant enough to the search, it will serve them to the user, often in a more elevated position than relevant webpages.
Why has the Google Twitter partnership happened?
Google has spoken of the importance of Social Media to Search since 2009, when then-CEO Marissa Mayer discussed the possibilities of ‘real-time search’ with The Guardian. “We think the real-time search is incredibly important and the real-time data that’s coming online can be super-useful in terms of us finding out something like, you know, is this conference today any good? Is it warmer in San Francisco than it is in Silicon Valley? You can actually look at tweets and see those sorts of patterns, so there’s a lot of useful information about real time and your actions that we think ultimately will reinvent search.”
Six years on, the reinvention of Search still hasn’t quite arrived, but the potential is there. As Meyer notes, if powered by real-time data, Google could tell you not just where and when an event is taking place, but also its quality – and do so with the most relevant and up to date data. This is information that can be most effectively gathered through Twitter, where such conversations are taking place every second of every day, and by tapping into that resource, Google makes itself a stronger – and critically – more user-friendly resource; essentially a one-stop shop for the fastest and most reliable information.
For Twitter, meanwhile, it means greater visibility. The social network has been slowly losing the fight to Facebook over the last few years; the site remains a popular and valuable platform to members, but to those who aren’t signed up, or those who aren’t logged on, Twitter loses its power. “We’ve got the opportunity now to drive a lot of attention to and aggregate eyeballs, if you will, to these logged-out experiences, topics and events that we plan on delivering on the front page of Twitter,” Twitter CEO Dick Costello said. In other words, Twitter’s piggy-backing off Google to help bolster its own reputation as a valuable source of news and information.
How can brands take advantage of the Google Twitter partnership?
Google Twitter integration is also vital for brands, opening out their Tweets beyond Twitter users and to the 3 billion per day global Google searches. Consequently, brands must consider Google as part of their social strategy, and social as part of their optimisation strategy, ensuring that tweets are optimised and use key terms. This will give brands the best chance of appearing for relevant searches as, for certain keywords, Google will push Twitter results more prominently. For example, during Transfer Deadline Day on Tuesday 1st September 2015, a stream of tweets using the phrase ‘Deadline Day’ were appearing behind only the News results when that phrase (or ‘Transfer Deadline Day’) was searched for because Google deemed Twitter to be one of the most accurate and up to date sources on that day.
With TV advertising becoming integrated with Twitter and hashtag campaigns, there’s even more opportunity. If, as is happening so frequently now, brands lead with a hashtag as a call to action, consumers who search for information about that hashtag, or the campaign more generally, are as likely to find what they seek through Google as they are Twitter. Even users who haven’t remembered the hashtag, or only remember fragments of the ad, could find the Twitter feed, or relevant Tweets, through Google when they search for related keywords. The Google and Twitter partnership makes it much easier to find the information users want regardless of wherever they’re looking for it.
It’s unclear exactly how Google decides what feeds and tweets will be pulled in. It’s likely that it’ll use a similar approach to Tweets as it does to sites, so an account’s follower count, the number of shares and level of engagement (essentially authority and quality signals) will be key indicators. To help boost those metrics, it’s important for brands to make their tweets as engaging as possible through use of images and video, but also the correct language. For example, if the term ‘Christmas’ generates more searches than ‘Xmas’, use ‘Christmas’. What is true of on-site optimisation is now true of on-social optimisation, so consider those 140 characters with care.
Google and Twitter’s partnership is still in its early stages, and there are few hard and fast rules that can be used to guide brands to success. Indeed, it’s likely that the functionality is still in beta test phase and constantly being tweaked. What is clear, however, is that this is just the beginning of what’s set to be a big year of change in how Search and Social relate to one another. By the end of 2016, it’s likely that the two will be fundamentally linked, with this collaboration being the first step. Brands must stay aware, adapt accordingly, and treat their site and their social as what they are: two vital sides of the same coin.