Much has been made of Google’s new Realtime Search facility, and I suspect that it will grow in use as a utility for accessing information on current events. Until recently, twitter trending terms were used as a zeitgeist of current events and items of interest to the online community, but increasingly, as mindless memes clog the hashtag space, the value of trending terms has reduced and the need for a more targeted mechanism has manifested. From a business perspective, Realtime represents probably the easiest way of tracking conversations happening right now about a specific set of keywords or brands, but in my opinion its true value is in tracking how information is disseminated in moments of crisis. Both as a means of determining any source of disinformation and as a pool for aggregating information from the community in response to a particular crisis, it’s a valuable information management utility.
Of course, it’s not as if brand tracking utilities aren’t already out there. From the bookmark tracker in Delicious to a range of real time mentions utilities (Social Mention, UberVU, Icerocket, Addictomatic, Surchur – to name just a few), these keyword tracking services have long been established as a useful means of keeping up-to-date with what’s being said in the blogosphere and twittersphere. But where Google’s product may have a competitive edge is in the development of custom alerts by location and media type, and potentially with more detailed alerts down the track where an SMS alert can be triggered when a threshold of posts and comments about a brand, event or set of circumstances peaks over a short time period.
It is still a difficult thing for companies and individuals to wade through irrelevant or critical posts, to find useful information and feedback from customers, in response to a real time event. Developing a customised alert package for real time could be crucial in efficient handling of emergency events (natural disasters, in-progress criminal activity, or utility and service interruptions) as well as corporate crises (market value impacting events and brand compromising incidents).
If Google get on the ground here and create short term subscriptions on real time events, they could be on a winner for global crisis management. I say short term subscriptions, because I think if the pricing is low enough, it will attract widespread adoption by even small business in tracking campaigns as well as crisis events. But as we’re dealing with real time, those short term subscriptions have to be from as little as 12 hours of tracking to be properly useful as tracking mechanisms for in-progress events. Add the customised alert subscription service to an advertising stream on real time search results and I’d say Google have just released a veritable licence to print money.