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Twitter: Now With More Local, Part II

By: 21 August 2009

As promised, here are some more thoughts on Twitter’s new geolocation capability. There are lots of cool local implications.

First, some background: Twitter’s use as a local search tool has come in a few different flavors. With the inception of Twitter search, the service went from being a river of trite status updates to a tool for finding trending topics or things being discussed right now. This has been a departure from search as we know it on Google, which has a relatively more static (albeit much larger) index of content.

Some of this has been used for local, i.e., searching for the best pizza in San Francisco. From an advertiser perspective, it can likewise be used as a tool to inform followers about promotions and events around a business. Naked Pizza has so far been the poster child for this, and we’ll see more.

Will Tweet for New Business

One of the paradoxical things about Twitter is its relatively high endurance threshold for self-promotional or even commercial messages (i.e., “come see my art exhibit,” “come to my happy hour,” “read my latest blog post,” etc.). This tolerance is perhaps driven by relevance, in that opting in to follow someone has a certain self-selection dynamic. Offering promotions or things of value also doesn’t hurt.

What the new geolocation feature could do is make location more transparent. This translates to making it easier for businesses to target followers that are around them. By following all of the users that are tweeting from nearby, advertisers will get a certain percentage that will follow them back. By doing so, a network of geographically relevant followers is built — to which ongoing promotional tweets are pushed.

Other interesting points about geolocation have more to do with what Twitter, or third parties, decide to do with it. Here’s where some of Andrew Shotland‘s prescient points from yesterday come into play.

If you know a user is tweeting from a particular lat/long, why not overlay business listings data to be able to determine that they’re tweeting from “Joe’s Bowling Alley”? Once you know that, the floodgates open for related content (Yelp reviews) or ads  (“Pete’s Bowling Alley”).

Follow the User

Back to the user perspective, geolocation also adds an additional dimension of relevance to Twitter search. In other words, filtering tweets not only by keyword but by location. This makes the most sense in mobile, if you are wandering through a new neighborhood and want to find out about all the deals happening around you.

Those deals/tweets would be coming from the businesses, mentioned above, that are tweeting from their locations. This assumes for the sake of argument, that businesses will do this with great enough coverage and frequency to make it a worthwhile user experience. That could take a while to materialize but you get the idea.

So it could work in both directions: Advertisers targeting nearby users, and users searching for nearby businesses. There are lots of ways this could develop, but for now it’s certain that Twitter just got a whole lot more interesting.



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