By Suzanne Vara
Google recently introduced us to Real Time Search, and this has been met with a lot of questions. What tweets will show up in real time? How will this affect businesses who are, and those who are not, engaging in social media? How will it affect PPC? Where will the searches show up? The biggest question is what impact will this have on small business? Small business owners are met with limited resources and adding any additional hours into their day is nearly impossible. But can a small business ignore real time search?
What Is Real Time Search? As per Google
"... new features that bring your search results to life with a dynamic stream of real-time content from across the web. Now, immediately after conducting a search, you can see live updates from people on popular sites like Twitter and FriendFeed, as well as headlines from news and blog posts published just seconds before. When they are relevant, we'll rank these latest results to show the freshest information right on the search results page."
In other words, your tweets from Twitter and new blog articles will be appear as "Latest Results." The latest results are featured in two ways.
a. On the search results page below the "News Results" (if there are news results). This appears for very hot topics that are getting a lot of activity.
b. The "Show Options" menu: click on "Latest" under All Results and the live search results will appear.
What Does This Mean for Small Businesses?
1. Customer Experience
Consumers are much more savvy, and they are going online for more information. A quick Google search will provide them possibly more information about your company than you might have thought. A business cannot control what a person tweets about. As we see in the example below, tweets are posted when they mention a topic, business name, a name, etc.
Most tweets, blog entries and company mentions will show up under "Latest" and not on the main search results page. However, if a consumer wants to see more information about you, they have the option at their fingertips.
2. Reputation Management
Not every business is on Twitter or has a blog, nor do they necessarily belong. However, ignoring your "Latest" news can present a problem. If a consumer is singing your praises, or worse, a bad comment is written and you do not respond, you are adding fuel to the fire. That customer has been given a chance to continuously go on and on about your company/brand whereas the praise singer just got deflated with no feedback from you. Failing to monitor your reputation online could result in some missed opportunities or a poor company image that leads to reduced sales.
Yes there will be spam because spammers are going to jump on this like ants at a summer picnic. While Google will make every attempt to try and control spam, the current algorithm for posting in real time makes that nearly impossible. How will this affect a small business? Spammers could very well keyword stuff tweets to get ahead and push your company lower on the tweets area. This is going to happen. There is no control right now, but the key is to try and stay ahead of them.
4. Search Engine Optimization
Will real time search improve page rank? This remains to be seen. Will keyword-laden tweets that are tweeted over and over from different accounts and push a company to the top of a searched term make a difference? Will this be seen as spam? Keyword-laden tweets will give great results for a specific term, especially for those difficult to rank terms, and even if your company is atop of tweets for a short time, you may reap some rewards.
Real time search is not just the posting of tweets. It also posts company mentions from blog articles. So if your company has a blog, you may want to check out your "Latest" results.
In small business branding we have to consider social media marketing as an extension of your brand in the same way that we do traditional advertising. For some businesses, it is a time of uncertainty. As stated earlier, not every business needs to be on Twitter. A "crickets" account is worse than no account at all. But can you still just ignore the social media community?
The good news here is that, if you are able to squeeze in an extra hour as a small business owner, you can go and see what terms are popular in your industry, see what is being said about you, and see if you need to move full steam ahead in 2010. Most small businesses will need to do so because social media marketing has just started to make a big impact and getting in now will make a world of a difference in a year or so.
About the Author
Suzanne Vara is founder of Kherize5, a Las Vegas advertising and marketing agency for small businesses that creates strong brand images through customized marketing plans in traditional advertising and social media marketing.