The hashtag jungle of real time search

Last week my partners in crime over at The Cynical Bastards podcast talked about the deals that Twitter had made with both Microsoft and Google that would allow both companies access to the fire hose of information that Twitter generates every minute of the day. While it was my thinking that Twitter must have made out large in the deals Mark called that thinking into question but as it may turn out I could be wrong in my assumptions.

I say that because of some details that came out in a New York Times article about the marketability of real time search in general and about the Twitter deals in relation to being a provider of content for real time search. As Miguel Helft noted in the NYT article

But Twitter’s chief executive, Evan Williams, said revenue was “not the focus” of its agreements with Google and Microsoft.

What’s more, neither of those companies has immediate plans to put ads on its searches of Twitter, though they may do so later. And Facebook said last week that it received no money from a separate agreement to make some of its users’ updates available in real time to Microsoft.

While a large number of social media pundits, myself included, like to poke fun at Twitter for seemingly being unable to monetize all that data flowing though its timelines it does speak to a larger problem.

Just how do you monetize a constantly changing landscape of hashtags and shortened URLs?

People like blogger Rob Diana suggest that its real strength will only become apparent with the growth of the mobile computing.

A majority of the real time search boom will be in its convergence with another rapidly growing industry, mobile computing. There could be real time recommendations based on your current location using an application that aggregates information from real time searches as well as social sites like Yelp and Urban Spoon. Businesses can easily see the benefits of this as well with local advertisements and “limited time” discounts on your mobile phone.

Just think of the applications that could be possible when you mash together recommendations, discovery, social media and real time information. Not surprisingly, the business model for these new types of applications will probably still be advertising, but it is localized and specialized. Generic search may have known what you were looking for, but the new mobile applications will also know when and where you are looking for it.

However there is also a more interesting use of real time search of social media that may turn out to be much easier to monetize which Rob points to as well in his post

There are the basic breaking news applications, which could be huge in their own right, as well as niche applications like social media monitoring.

While being able to market against your typical search results can result in lots of money being made and easy to see ROI real time search is still both too new and ambiguous to provide the same kind of results – for both provider of results and companies advertising against those results. However the thing that real time search does do is allow companies to be proactive to events as they happen rather than reactive.

Rather than having to deal with old news and the built up reaction to past events companies now have a chance to see these negative events, or even positive ones, as they are happening. By being able to deal with consumer reactions as they develop in real time companies are able in the short run to save money that they would have otherwise had to spend on things like lawyers, public relations, and crisis management.

In the long run it puts a human face to the companies who step in early due to their monitoring of social media and in turn presents the company to consumers as one who cares and is worth spending our money on.

This kind of use of real time search might only return savings or make millions for those involved which might not be as sexy as making billions but sometimes reputation is more important than short term dollars in the bank.

Just as social media has been disruptive and mindset changing for our traditional business models maybe real time search will be just as disruptive of the business of search.