Using Twitter for Search

By May 12, 2009 Social Media No Comments

I bet the Prime Ministers Office is buzzing tonight, with policy makers, PRs and assistants, scouring online newspapers to gauge the reaction of the nation to their 2009 Budget.

With the availability of online newspapers, no longer do we have to wait for the 5 o’clock news, but instead we can go online and refresh any newspaper site until the first stories start to come through about whatever topic we are interested in that day. Alternatively, we can get Google alerts to send us the news clippings as they arrive.

If you asked social media experts though, they would tell you that there is at least one other major source that the PM’s office should be canvassing tonight – Twitter. Recently hailed as the new ‘real-time’ search engine, Twitter is supposed to rival Google as an information source, particularly on real-time.

If you check out the Twitter stream about the budget, you will see that the vast majority of tweets are not reactionary or emotional, but rather statements. One of my hopes, and that of many marketers in general, was that Twitter would have been a source for gauging the opinions and feelings of your customers. But for any given topic, you have to wade through a lot of useless tweets to find interesting opinions.  The feelings are so far usually very high level and predictable – e.g. “it is so sad about the Victorian bushfires”.

It is also littered with tiny URLs – which are distracting and useless if you aren’t going to click on them. And realistically, you would have to have a lot of spare time to click on all, or even a proportion, of the URLs you find in a news-related Twitter stream. If I wanted to read related articles, I would still prefer to use Google news as a source, as it is a bespoke search engine for searching relevant articles and there is at least some quality control over the articles which are suggested.

Twitter just isn’t doing it for me – I don’t want to see all those tiny URLs, I don’t want to read banal comments like “the budget is out today”, and I don’t want to have to sort through low quality tweets and spammers.  I am ‘old-fashioned’, I prefer the technology of yesterday – Google and online news. News.com.au for example has a collection of articles from a few different papers, and you are allowed to comment – so with them you get the ‘facts’ as well as a selection of opinions from ‘regular’ people.

While the hype of Twitter seems to have peaked, and now is falling slightly, I continue my sceptical opinion of it, and wait to see what it is truly useful for.

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