Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Twitter As The Real-Time Search Engine

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about the big picture for Google. While talks about a formal business model are a little more than speculation at this time, and rumors of acquisition talks are in the air, one can't help but wonder about the true potential for monetizing the Twitter phenomenon.

As somebody who has spent the past couple of years learning the ins and outs of search engine marketing, specifically in the areas of local and mobile search, I'm most interested in the application of Twitter as a real-time, location-aware search engine.

Take for example a local sushi restaurant MF Sushibar that I consult with from time to time. The restaurant enjoys solid local search engine rankings, with thousands of unique visitors coming to their site each month. These are customers who are specifically looking for a place to have sushi in Atlanta.

Search results for any combination of descriptive and geographic terms (i.e. "sushi" and "atlanta") will most likely yield pages from the company website, along with directory and map listings featuring the company's info. You can troll through the reviews to make a decision whether or not you want to make a reservation at MF, or you can ask your friends for suggestions. This is the result of local search engine optimization, the services we provide at Radius Online.

Twitter is an excellent place to ask your friends for suggestions, particularly if your friends are in the market you're looking for a recommendation in. Social networks also fall into this category for peer suggestions. Local directories such as Yelp!, Kudzu, OpenTable, or CitySearch can also provide you with suggestions, though most people are skeptical of reviews on these sites.

Now consider the potential for Twitter. Somebody from out of town is driving down Peachtree Street when they get a craving for sushi. They tweet "hey Atlanta peeps, what's a good sushi restaurant?" Followers chime in with suggestions. What if the restaurant were monitoring tweets for such keyword combinations as "atlanta" and "sushi"? They could instantly reply with the day's specials or a unique mobile coupon for the customer.

Now what if this could be automated? Anytime a customer tweets about "Atlanta" and "Sushi", they get an automated DM message with a special offer for today only. This is the power of real-time search, along with a unique application for local and mobile search. This could be where Twitter is going. Imagine the power you have when you can engage the customer at the exact moment they are considering a purchase.

As a separate example, I have another friend who rescues data off of fried hard drives. He monitors tweets for terms like "my hard drive just crashed" or "I can't get any files of my computer." Over the past few months, he's found dozens of new data recovery clients by doing this. Again, what if this could be automated? Rather than having to monitor thousands of tweets 24/7, you could automatically position your offers in front of users based on their thoughts and comments - what their need is right now.

This isn't unchartered territory, it's really just the latest channel where search engine marketing strategies can be applied. It's also only one of many potential uses for Twitter in its current form.

How are you monitoring tweets to find new opportunities? If you're not listening for potential opportunities, you could be missing out.

No comments: