Posted March 5, 2009 4:57 pm by with 18 comments

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By Trisha Lyn Fawver

As usual, TechCrunch has got us thinking about things in a different light.  One of my favorite social media applications, Twitter, has been getting more exposure in the mainstream lately, and with that more people are questioning what they can use Twitter for.  Some see the micro-blogging service as just another distraction, or instant messaging on speed.  Much to my chagrin, many marketers are seeing Twitter as just another publishing platform to push ads.  And still some are seeing it for what it is: a valuable tool.

And what it’s becoming: a search engine.

Michael Arrington reminds us that it’s time to start thinking of Twitter as a search engine.  Ever since Twitter bought Summize and folded it into Twitter Search, more and more people are using this feature to find trends in their markets, other people interested in the same hobbies they are, and much more.  There are a handful of third-party services as well, like, that also provide keyword tracking for Twitter searches and email users a digest of search results.  A true mark of Twitter becoming more of a search engine is a new Firefox add-in that adds real time Twitter results to your Google SERPs.  From TechCrunch:

Twitter knows it, too. They’re going to build their business model on it. Forget small time payments from users for pro accounts and other features, all they have to do is keep growing the base and gather more and more of those emotional grunts. In aggregate it’s extremely valuable. And as Google has shown, search is vastly monetizable—somewhere around 40% of all online advertising revenue goes to ads on search listings today.

Online marketers have been speculating almost since Twitter’s inception in 2006 how they’ll eventually make money.  When the Track features were removed, many speculated that the quick solution for Twitter to monetize would be to offer this valuable service for a fee.  However, they still haven’t brought back track to the masses or offered it as a premium paid service (at least, not publicly).  Only recently have the creators of Twitter started sharing thoughts on how they may monetize the service.

Of course, for the searches to be relevant you have to participate genuinely.  If Twitter becomes a haven for spammers and marketers just pushing links and deals, then of course the search results you get on Twitter will be clouded.  But I have high hopes that the few of us preaching Twitter clarity will win out and the user base will continue to participate on a human level, making the search results that come from Twitter more rich in content than even a Google search.

Trisha Lyn Fawver manages affiliate programs, blogs, and explores the world of social media, all at

  • Jordan McCollum

    I think Twitter search may one day be better than Google (or may already be now) for specific kinds of searches, but not all. Basic information searches probably will never be better on Twitter. How much faster is it to type “capitol of saskatchewan” into Google and get an answer than to Tweet it?

    However, there will probably be a good-sized segment of searches that will be better served by Twitter, especially things like opinion (and mass opinion even more so) and vetted resources.

  • I agree… it gives much more targeted results if you’re looking for specific mentions. And I just started using the Tweet Later digest and it came up with a lot of great results. Not exactly real time, but good.

    Trisha Lyn Fawver’s last blog post..Getting Started in PPC

  • I’ve used it on a couple of occasions now both to identify segments of the Twitter population and also to identify Tweets around specific subjects. A great little research tool whether through tweeting to your followers or just identifying trends.


  • Twitter is certainly great, but I don’t think it’s going to be threatening Google any time soon.

    Advertisers are drawn to getting their message in front of lots of people, but with twitter the engagement mentality seems much different. Advertisers will bid high on terms in traditional search because they can easily judge the impact through the sales process. Twitter, seems to me, more of a flow of consciousness around a term.

    Unless twitter can find a way to contribute to buying decisions I think it will run into the same wall as Facebook. Lot’s of engaged users ignoring your ads.

    Heath’s last blog post..SEO: Strategic Web Asset Promotion (SWAP)

  • Hi there,

    I’ve probably said this on various other blogs where I’ve read information about twitter. Twitter is one of the fastest growing web applications. It’s only been twitter for the last two months. Now, even I’ve started using it and find its work system to be very informative, especially when you have a lot of people to follow. Its more about getting updates from the people you follow than other actually following you.

    Eddie Gear

    Eddie Gear’s last blog post..FREE user guide template

  • @ Heath – I think Twitter is already contributing to buying decisions, for the savvy user of Twitter. I’ve seen many product recommendations and usually do a search on Twitter to see what others are saying before I make a substantial purchase. Maybe that makes me an advanced Twitter user, but it’s not unimaginable that behavior like that can spread to the masses of users.

    Trisha Lyn Fawver’s last blog post..Jon Stewart Rips CNBC

  • Leo

    I am still not sold on twitter becoming competitive with other search engines. I think that the frame of mind that people who use twitter are more of an entertainment frame of mind than what the average searcher would use a search engine…

    For example, if I am having an issue with fleas on a dog, I could type in a search query for it to find my answer…..I seriously doubt that I would get the same information from twitter, not because people don’t have dogs with fleas but because they use the platform more for entertainment.

    However, I guess I could see using twitter to see what other people felt about a new movie or CD out there….

    Leo’s last blog post..The Social Media Networking Meltdown?it isn’t the technology that matters?

  • I have follow and comment this discussion before at TC,and I say yes”for twitter search to be more advance,more “search result and “may use it for twitter main income maker,.however, HOW to separated leaving message that content ‘invitation to buy”and purely friends who like to give “recommendation to there other follower that the product is great ,will be another work for twitter not to counterfeit twitter democracy to recommended what they like to other friends that follow there life every post

  • Considering the fact that most people make false representations on the internet any search results coming from social networks or even regular search engines cannot be 100% true. So, even someone considers a social platform as a search engine, the euphoria may not generate too many opportunities. But its somewhat useful and can supplement regular SERPs.

    SEO India – Jaya Kumar’s last blog post..Hosting multiple domains

  • Hi, I enjoyed your post, I agree that in order to monetize twitter, people have to make some use of the growing twitter data base. but as you mentioned in your post people pay for relevant result.
    before making money twitter team will have to think deeply about an efficient data meaning schema for all their tweet.
    it is really fascinating that me too Have posted on the same subject yesterday.

    abdellah’s last blog post..Is twitter search the new real time search engine you can count on? (part1)

  • One concern I have that any information that comes from Twitter will come from only those who use Twitter. Right that is growing at a ridiculous rate but only represents about 6 million people and their opinions.

    This will certainly be an ongoing development worthy of keeping an eye on. Personally, I am all for more opportunities to get good information. It will just be up to me to decide what’s good and what’s bad based o the source.

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..ROI Revolution Rocks!

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  • call me crazy, i just think twitter is another dot com tradegy a decade after the 1st dot com bubble. it’ll take a while for the investors to figure it out, so let’s all enjoy it while it’s free.. kinda like AOL back in the day 🙂

    buster’s last blog post..Garmin Phone, Real iPhone Rival?

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  • For finding other blogs/marketers in various niches of interest, Twitter will rock. I agree with others though, if they attempt to branch into “normal” search engine functionality, they may indeed fail miserably.

    Dennis Edell’s last blog post..Blog Comment Tip: Add A CommentLuv Link With No Plugin (sneaky!)

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