Search is Getting All Emotional Thanks to Twitter

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My four-year-old grandson, Hamza could teach the search engines a thing-or-two about how people think. I made him lasagna and while he was eating he paused, rolled his eyes upward and pronounced: “vegetable, cat basagna.”

Only his mother and I could possibly understand what he meant. The ‘vegetable’ part is because even the tiny bit of tomato you find in lasagna make it a vegetable dish as far as he’s concerned. The ‘cat’ was because Garfield eats it in huge quantities. And ‘basagna?’ Well, he hadn’t quite got his four-year-old tongue around lasagna yet and that’s just how it came out.

So what does that have to do with search engines?

In that scenario I was the search engine, interpreting his meaning. Search engines would ideally understand human queries in exactly the same way as I understood Hamza. If you think about it, many search queries consist of just one or two words, but lots of search queries that involve a long string of words are more complicated than just a word search: many times we’re looking for ‘undertones.’ Something that defies straightforward definition.

If Google has got its algorithms right it will have elaborate strings in place to locate what people really mean when they type in a sequence of words. We know they already have the typo thing conquered, and I must say they do a pretty good job even when you’re just typing too fast and get it wrong. But there’s always room for a new way of searching that can somehow tap into ‘what you really mean’ when you search.

And this is where Twitter comes in. Because Twitter is essentially a huge network of millions of tiny networks (you and your friends), talking about what matters to you and what you think about. So a kind of ‘innate, emotional-level understanding’ is built in.

You might be thinking ‘yes, sure but how much can Twitter help: after all it’s much smaller than Google’ right?

Well, in a given day several hundred million queries are typed into Google worldwide. On Twitter an estimated 60 million people are pouring their hearts out and sharing the most up-to-date news on a daily basis. It’s difficult for anyone to get a handle on just how many people are on Twitter because a huge proportion of users use 3rd party Twitter clients such as Twhirl or Tweetdeck, and seldom visit the Twitter website. Now that’s a heck of a lot of useful knowledge to tap into if you only know how.

In case you’re interested here’s some information on Twitter demographics. It’s hard to track down an accurate source on the number of Twitter users, but in December 2008 the Twitter website racked up 4.43 million unique visits!

Up until very recently the major gripe of Twitter users was the lack of adequate search facilities to mine this vast pool of information. That has changed fast. Not only are there a dozen-or-more good 3rd party Twitter search applications, but Twitter admin has been working hard to bring their service up-to-date.

Development of Twitter Search

Search on Twitter is developing apace. Just a few days ago Waggener Edstrom released Twendz,  a new tool for monitoring conversations on Twitter. And–wait for it–this tool is especially for monitoring undertones: the emotions of interaction if you like.

Interesting and useful though these 3rd party search applications are, there’s no need to leave Twitter to do a search. All you need to do is enter a query with hash tags, you can see everyone who has tweeted on that subject. Try #politics, for example, and you’ll get all the tweets that included that hash tag recently. Cool huh?

Perhaps the best thing about it is that Twitter provides all this information without algorithms that might be said to ‘invade our privacy.’ No need for Behavioural Targeting or anything close to it.

Doubt that people are really using Twitter for search?

Overheard on Twitter

Emotional Thanks - Twitter

Emotional Thanks - Twitter

Emotional Thanks - Twitter

Emotional Thanks - Twitter

Patricia Skinner is an SEO consultant, social media coach & reputation management expert. She is also community leader at the nascent SEO Self Regulation Community. She can be reached any time through her SEO website. Why not follow her on Twitter & her LinkedIn profile.

Patricia Skinner
Patricia Skinner is co-founder and Search and Social Director at Mideast SEO, and spends her days doing what she loves best; cooking up winning strategies... Read Full Bio
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  • jan_geronimo

    I had an interesting discussion with my online buddy who’s an avid facebook fan. She only uses twitter occasionally. Her beef against twitter is its randomness – where did all those tweets go, does it really drive traffic to your site, she trusts google more in delivering results.

    I’m on the other side of the fence, praising twitter’s powerful search engine in a sense that what drives it are the recommendations of the best minds in many fields and not some strange contraptions that churn out primarily guesswork. Google’s much vaunted algorithm will soon be seriously challenged with this intricate hive of powerful users’ input. A better algorithm in my estimation.

  • Leadsmarketer

    How can SEO and a search engine marketing campaign improve Leadsmarketer website ( position in the search engines? Our marketing and sales department invested a lot of resources in writing all the content for our web site but we just can’t seem to be ranking high enough in the engines, while our competition is on top. Do we have to re-write it all over again?

  • Barry Welford

    We are all trying to get used to this very different process and must learn new ways of interacting with hordes of people, most of whom are not there at the very moment you interrogate the system. However the search and the # hashtag processes are powerful. We’ve just got to learn to use ’em better. Once you have say five minds all grappling with a problem, I believe you have something very powerful. It’s a little like a non-structured forum.

  • Greg Rollett

    People are getting very accustomed to instant gratification with their searches. Twitter and its various search tools help people get that info. SEO’s and marketers will be closely watching this unfold.

    Imagine someone looking for a great flower shop and sees 3 live people ordering from a local flower shop. Much more powerful than a 3 line Google result. Now imagine that company reaching out to you to ask if you had any questions or thanking you for that order. It’s getting crazy!

    Great post.

  • Patricia Skinner

    Yes, all great points Greg. We’re entering the Matrix, lol.


  • paprikapink

    When it’s really working all emotional-like, it won’t need a mention of the word “politics” or #politics to bring you to political tweets. It’ll find references to Claire McCaskill, Robert Gibbs, republican, etc. and boom there it is.

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  • Sherri

    I was so bummed when I signed up with Twitter for my hair salon – they suspended me for suspicious activity and I hadn’t even begun following anyone yet. Then, when I emailed them I get no response. My clients want my salon to post updates but kinda hard since Twitter thinks I’m a “bad guy.”

  • Holly Powell

    Twitter is really a great site.. As i came across this article, i can’t help my self but to read this. and with twitter tools.. it makes it even more amazing. Thanks for sharing this post. Looking forward to reading other great posts.