Over the last few trading days rumors have swirled related to Google buying Twitter. Is Google really going to buy Twitter? If so, how much are they going to pay? $35 billion? $40 billion? At the present time, Google has just over $70 billion in cash but that doesn’t mean they are going to toss it around on a social network that struggles to monetize their content. This begs the question, “Why would Google buy Twitter?” The answer is very easy – real time search.
From December 7th, 2009 until July 2nd, 2011 Google offered real time search results on the front page of Google. Think of the “Google News bubble” but with streaming tweets and Facebook updates. Google would also add blog posts and articles that had been published with 15 or 20 minutes of the search. This is extremely effective for searchers looking for information in real time. Unfortunately, the Google Spider cannot crawl, index and rank updates fast enough to be in real time. That is why Twitter owns the second screen in terms of sports, entertainment and news.
Real time search looked like this:
As soon as real time search was announced I started playing around with it to see what would show up on the front page of Google search. At this time Google did not have the ability to index hashtags well. During the first iteration of Real Time Search Google scanned Twitter and Facebook for keywords related to a search query. The tweet or Facebook update would continue to scroll in the real time box for up to 20 minutes. As soon as someone else tweeted with the same keywords your tweet would be pushed lower. If I remember correctly, the real time search box contained up to 10 results including tweets, Facebook updates and recently published articles.
One of the biggest problems for Google is keeping searches up to the second with news stories, sporting events or entertainment. While Google offers a knowledge graph result for sports scores it is often delayed. Last night I noticed the score of a college basketball game was delayed by about five minutes. Also, the news results were articles that were published before the game even started; that particular game was in the second half.
If Google can enhance search with real time search results it will be huge for advertisers. Right now, advertisers are looking at Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat to market products such as movies, fast food, vehicles and music. If Google can grab the real time audience they will be able to secure those advertisers. Right now, Google does very well in these industries with YouTube but they can do even better if they have real time search.
The issue Google has right now is they do not want to pay $35 billion for a “struggling” social network. I love Twitter, I really do. That said, it is limited and many users have to take a break because of all the drama and hatred. There are millions of trolls on Twitter and it can be painful if you have any presence or authority. Advertisers realize that Twitter is a great branding tool but not a way to generate revenue or send people to a website.
The click through rate on Twitter is disgustingly low. Some of my most retweeted tweets have a click through rate of less than 0.1%. Not 1%, but 0.1%. This makes it difficult for marketers to spend time and money on this particular social network. I have not paid for promoted tweets but I imagine the click through rate is even worse.
Google’s best move is to let the Twitter stock drop to levels below $25. At this point, there will be value for the search giant. If they can pay $15 or $20 billion for Twitter I think they will be willing to do it. Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain – Google will not be able to replicate the success of Twitter and Facebook. They have tried multiple times and it simply hasn’t happened. I will continue to monitor the situation with Twitter and Google and let you know what is likely to happen in 2015 and beyond.