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November 06, 2009

Google search vs. Twitter search vs. your own personal groundswell

by Josh Bernoff

Where do you go when you need the answer to a question?

While writing the first chapter of Harnessing the Groundswell, I wanted to cite a case -- a movie that recently tanked due to bad online buzz during its first weekend. I recalled the example, but not the movie.

Did Google have the answer? I tried combinations like "movie tanked word of mouth" and got nothing. (There is a right combination of words to get this -- can you guess it? Do you want to spend your time guessing stuff like that?) Google news, which is where I started looking, was similarly useless.

Twitter search is useless, too, since the event in question happened months ago.

So I asked Twitter.

In minutes, I heard back from nine people with the answer, Sacha Baron Cohen's Brüno. @DwriteN linked me to her paper on the topic. @ericcomes cited an Infegy buzz study, which I'll probably footnote in the book. Others suggested Valkyrie and Gentlemen Broncos as alternatives.

People's brains. What an incredible resource!

P.S. Thanks to my Twitter follower helpers: @melissaMboyes, @benkunz, @ChrisThilik, @Amontero, @amklaasen, @stefanomaggi, @JaneBozarth, and @warrenng

P.P.S. the secret key word for google was "decline".


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David Berkowitz

You could also blog it. But I guess it's not quite as efficient.

We actually did some research on the Twitter Effect: http://blog.360i.com/social-media/twitter-effect-box-office-sales-real-perceived


Funny how I experience the same problems when trying to research for some things especially if the one I'm looking for is not too popular. I find myself continually rearranging word per word until I get a desirable result. (leads is what i call them since you still have to go deeper to finally get what you want!)

great post! :)

Bob Gilbreath

That's a great use of your personal network, Josh. But you are a very special person. You've got nearly 8,000 followers who are fans of you and your writing. Of course you're going to get some great answers to your questions.

A vast majority of people will never get close to a network like yours. And one of the problems is that you're only following less than 600 people in return.

I know you are not suggesting this is the future of search and this is not a ding against your use, just pointing out that this is a very rare situation. Too bad there's not a way for everyone to have the same way to tap people's brains.

Ben Kunz

@Bob - I think most people could do just what Josh did, once they get to about 1,000 followers. I was one who responded, not because Josh is a social media notable (although I realized, after tossing out the answer, that he was the author of the Groundswell book). Instead, I glanced at the stream, saw the question, and said, what the hell -- let's help someone.

I've posed questions and gotten great advice, not because I'm famous (although I do write infrequent columns for BusinessWeek.com that perhaps a few thousand read and then promptly forget my name!) but because people like to help.

Josh Bernoff

@Bob I want to respond, since a lot of others may be feeling the same way.

First of all, regarding the 8000 followers -- I got there one follower at a time, just like the rest of you. Anybody can get to that point.

Regarding "only" following 600, I don't think I could track any more people that that!

If people want to use social value like this, they could either ask their (smaller number of) followers to RT to get to a larger audience, or participate in some location that already has a large audience, like a discussion forum.

Not suggesting Twitter will replace Google -- just that it has some real value, at least for me.

Robert Morrison

Exactly why I cultivate and value all of my 64,000+ contacts on Twitter. Many people just don't "get it", although I've explained many times why this huge following (and why I follow them back) is so useful and important!

Steve Schildwachter

Excellent and simple case study. I linked to this on my blog for advertisers and marketers, Ad Majorem. Thanks! -- Steve Schildwachter

Andy Michaels

You can say that again! Twitter is really a great place to get the interaction we need!


Andy Michaels

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