17% of Top Twitter Searches Change Hourly
If you are trying to base your blog or website's regularly-updated content around what is hot right at the moment on Twitter, you had better be quick about it. According to a new post published on the Twitter Engineering blog, a full 17% of the most popular Twitter searches change on an hourly basis.
In other words, any specific keyword research that you perform on Twitter will be largely outdated just one hour later, particularly if your primary concern is "what's currently popular?" as opposed to "what's currently popular within a specific niche?"
The report comes courtesy of Twitter researchers Gilad Mishne and Jimmy Lin, who analyzed search data on the site in October of 2011. The researchers used a sample size of the top 1,000 keyword searches on Twitter. Do the findings suggest that average Twitter users suffer from a short attention span, or simply reaffirm the notion that news changes quickly and Twitter is amply capable of handling it?
Daily Churn is Almost as High
The researchers behind the study are referring to the constant changing of top search queries as "churn," and they say that daily churn is nearly as high as hourly churn on Twitter. Specifically, the researchers said that 13% of the top 1,000 search phrases will be entirely different the next day.
Since the researchers chose October as the window for their study, they got to see how a major event - namely, the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs - affects search activity on the site. Not surprisingly, queries for "steve jobs" increased from a fraction of a percentage point to a whopping 15% on October 5th, the day Steve Jobs passed away. For comparison's sake, the researchers point to how other search terms like "pixar," "bill gates" and "pirates of silicon valley" each experienced search market share of less than 0.03% on this same day.
What This Means for Twitter
The same blog post takes the data to mean that Twitter is a premiere resource for breaking news, whether it's global or local, broad or narrow interest. This is obviously great news for Twitter, but researcher Lin says that it will only push them to facilitate news distribution even more:
"When news breaks, Twitter users flock to the service to find out what's happening. Our goal is to instantly connect people everywhere to what's most meaningful to them; the speed at which our content (and the relevance signals stemming from it) evolves make this more technically challenging, and we are hard at work continuously refining our relevance algorithms to address this."
The full version of Mishne and Lin's research paper can be downloaded at the website of the Cornell University Library.