I stopped regular reading of TechCrunch a long time ago — it had become a downright nasty place, where the community displayed repellent levels of acrimony, greed, sycophancy. But techmeme recently sent me to a TechCrunch post that reminded me that Arrington has been and remains a talented, blunt-spoken analyst.
In It’s Time To Start Thinking Of Twitter As A Search Engine, Arrington writes:
Enough people are hooked on it that Twitter has reached critical mass. If something big is going on in the world, you can get information about it from Twitter.
Twitter also gathers other information, like people’s experiences with products and services as they interact with them. A couple of months ago, for example, I was stuck in the airport and received extremely poor service from Lufthansa. I twittered my displeasure, which made me feel better – at least I was doing something besides wait in an endless line. I’ve also Twittered complaints about the W Hotel (no Internet, cold room) and Comcast (the usual Internet gripes).
More and more people are starting to use Twitter to talk about brands in real time as they interact with them [emphasis mine]. And those brands want to know all about it, whether to respond individually (The W Hotel pestered me until I told them to just leave me alone), or simply gather the information to see what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong.
People searching for news. Brands searching for feedback. That’s valuable stuff.
Twitter as search engine. Twitter as listening tool for organizations that want to find out what people are saying about them, and respond where warranted with customer service.
I’ll see that, and raise the wager: Twitter as a tool for tracking the conversation around specific topics, and — because Twitter search/tracking is a real-time service — discovering people who are, at that exact moment, actively interested in that topic. A radar system that monitors what — with apologies to Arthur Miller – is more and more the sound of the wired world “talking to itself,” and filters Babel down so that flares are generated only when it finds the keyword(s) you’ve specified.
Could this help groups working to solve global warming, save polar bears, or help disaster victims? I think so. Next up: posts about how twitter might be used in this way (hint: not by outsourcing it, or dropping it in the lap of a marketing person, or even tasking your whole marketing department with making it happen), and a look at how a few brands are trying to