According to a BloombergBusiness report in early February, Twitter has agreed to a deal with Google to provide the search engine powerhouse with full “firehose” access to its content for the first time since 2011. This means that Twitter will push its content to Google in real time, instead of waiting for Google to access and read the content on its own.

What will the impact of this deal be on healthcare practices?

  • Healthcare practices could potentially increase their visibility in Google search results by providing succinct answers to questions and normal promotion of content on Twitter, as this content may now be visible in search results.
  • It will be important for medical practices to cultivate and nurture a Twitter following as this can enhance search visibility.
  • Healthcare practices will have an opportunity to reach a bigger and/or more highly targeted audience on Twitter. As Twitter shows up in search results, they will also grow their network. This means that marketing on Twitter alone (without including the benefit of being seen in search results) can reach a larger audience.
  • Healthcare practices may have an opportunity to increase their chances of ranking above the competition in search results by having an effective presence on Twitter, depending on new relevant ranking factors Google applies.
  • Healthcare practices will need to be agile to make the best use of the new opportunities quickly. Twitter moves fast, and practices will have to adapt.

Below is a detailed summary about the agreement and its implications:

Understanding Google’s New Access to Twitter

At present, Google has to crawl Twitter’s website, searching for content that it can then use in search results. The process is time consuming, and does not allow Google full access to Twitter’s data. Under the new agreement, Twitter will push its content straight to Google, giving Google real-time access. This means that search results could potentially include tweets posted only minutes earlier.

The changes are likely to take effect some time in the first half of 2015, so we don’t yet know exactly how Google will use it, simply that it will. At a minimum, Google will be receiving a significantly higher volume of data and signals that it could use in influencing search results. The changes will likely be more significant than that though, because Google will certainly try to show the new data in the most current search results.

What Google’s Twitter Access Means for Healthcare

What does it mean for healthcare industry professionals? Previously, Points Group has found that a minimal presence on Twitter was sufficient for most healthcare practices. There was no significant added value from an expanded presence on Twitter. That may change with the new deal. We believe there are five significant implications for healthcare marketing:

  • People will get more focused answers from Google. Google is trying to provide the best answers to search queries. To do this, Google often employs different methods of providing search results.
    • One method is showing articles from the Google news feed. These often appear slightly offset in search, and link to recent news sources.
    • Google also employs the Google knowledge graph. It scans information across the Internet and provides specific answers either in a section on the right side of the screen or above the search results in what is known as the knowledge graph (answers on the top are a part of the knowledge graph known as the One Box).
    • We believe that we will see search results from Twitter in a new format like these, probably closer in style to the existing news feed. The results will be used to help answer user queries or to present real-time news options. It will be important for medical practices to provide succinct answers to questions and to utilize Twitter for the promotion of newly published content and practice events to be seen in these sections.
  • Influence will play a big part in being seen. Google has a specific algorithm that it is continuing to be fine tuned, and will likely use a similar variation to determine how it displays tweets. A big factor is anticipated to be influence. How many links are there to a Twitter profile? How many users follow the profile? How many favorites, @ replies, and retweets are there? All of these will likely play a role, as similar metrics are used on Google-owned YouTube. It will be important for medical practices to cultivate and nurture a following to aid in search visibility.
  • Twitter will benefit from the added exposure in Google Search results with more users going to Twitter. This increased user base will translate to higher potential reach on Twitter. This means that on Twitter, healthcare practices will have an opportunity to reach a larger, more highly targeted and engaged audience.
  • Greater integration between search and social media will influence search results. In a 2014 report, 6 of the top 10 factors correlating with high search results were related to social media. While correlation does not equal causation, it is important and you should take notice. With the integration of full data from a social media platform as large as Twitter, it is highly likely that Google will start using this data to have an influence on search results. Consequently, healthcare practices may have an opportunity to increase their chances of ranking above the competition by having an effective and robust presence on Twitter.
  • Speed is more important than ever. In an age where 78% of smartphone owners report using their device to get news in the last week, providing news quickly is of paramount importance. People are getting information online before traditional outlets have a chance to report it. Providing quick results and through Twitter could give you opportunities for exposure. Hear that an athlete has a concussion? Writing a story and putting it on Twitter within a couple hours has an excellent chance of getting indexed and seen. Healthcare practices will need to be agile to make the best use of the new opportunities quickly.

We will not know the full implications of the Google/Twitter deal until it is implemented. What we now know is that significant changes are coming, and healthcare practices that use Twitter effectively will be the first to benefit.

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