Using Social Awareness Streams To Learn What People Care About

It wasn’t long ago that knowledge about our world came from newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, and of course, person to person gossip, storytelling and family gatherings. The Internet changed all that. Today, a person wanting to know the latest buzz studies social awareness streams (SAS).

In the Just Behave column, we’ve discussed information architecture as it is used for search engine marketing and usability. One of the points mentioned concerns the gathering of terms and words that are used for taxonomies, link labels, category setup, navigation labels and content development.

If you’re only interested in keyword research for page rank purposes, you’re missing out on what people really care about. Since Google and Bing have learned how to determine what people like the most, it make sense to look for new ways to get that information for your web site.

Social Awareness Streams

A recent paper called “Hip and Trendy: Characterizing Emerging Trends on Twitter” calls social awareness streams “a class of communication and information platforms”. Those platforms are social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and even Youtube. Any place that we post 140 word comments with or without links, comments, pictures, videos and links are social online water coolers.

We’ve learned to Twitter while watching our favorite TV shows or mourn together the death of famous people. Facebook is used for both personal connections, as well as business use for marketing and gaining brand recognition through the involvement of “friends” and “fans”.

A slew of studies have shown the global impact on information, communication and the media due to popular social networking websites. For example, information and news are instant. In real-time using Twitter alone, hundreds of millions of users can log in and learn the latest interests, happenings, events, news and even public attitudes and opinions.

Sure, there’s always a debate about whether all this access to information is healthy or even necessary. But in general, the world has adapted and certain technologies thrive on this constant instant access to us. For web design, online marketing, user experience design and content writing, social awareness streams offer the opportunity to discover trending topics, opinions, and new resources. Your target market is talking to you and all you have to do is tap into their discussion streams.

How To Find New Topic Angles to Write About

If you’re accustomed to doing all your writing research using books or search engines, you may love trying Twitter. In the example below, I want to write new content for cooking websites that are looking for new recipe ideas. While I have favorite websites that can give me good information, I would rather look to see what’s popular with the world, just to get a new angle or perhaps learn something new.

Twitter has a search field at the top. Twitter users use what’s known as “hashtags” to help categorize and sort their “tweets”. It’s not a requirement to add them but if a tweet is expected to be found in searches for specific topics, it’s helpful. For this example, I chose the hashtag “#recipes” to see what came up.

Search Trends with Twitter

As you can see, there are a lot of information choices with 71 more tweets waiting. In the upper right, are suggestions for me to “Follow”. These aren’t paid spots. Twitter displays what its algorithm determines may be the best choices. The tweets themselves are a running scrollable dialog. They’ve bold faced my hashtag and as you can see, some posts have additional qualifiers, such as “#breakfast.” Sorting options are offered such as tweets with links to resources (sites, articles, blog posts, pictures) and also local tweets.

Twitter is helpful for offering new ideas. Who knew there was a site with 17,000 cooking videos? And of course, with the Royal Wedding happening, any site related to recipes, weddings and food can take advantage for promotional purposes.

For keyword research, new combinations of words can be uncovered in Twitter, such as “royal wedding scones” and “yoga and tea” as a combination or long tail idea. When you spend enough time browsing specific hashtags, you’ll begin to see the reoccurrence of certain words or discover popular themes and topics. It’s a fantastic way to wipe away writers’ block or create new blog post titles.

Detecting Trends

A trend on Twitter is the easiest to find as opposed to Facebook or search engines. Facebook has what I call “mini-events” that are limited to certain groupings of people. For example, when I went to my high school class reunion, I posted pictures afterward in my Facebook account.

Not only did the people who attended who were on Facebook leave feedback, but friends from other years responded with comments too. The strange part is that this event was held publicly to all my “friends”, some of which are business colleagues and family members.

Facebook may not instantly expose global trends, but regular posting offers some surprising results. One of my high school classmates developed a new interest in website design just because she read some of the articles and blog posts I had linked to. Sometimes you can figure out what’s popular with people depending on their responses to posts, such as anything by the Dalai Lama, politicians and community sites.

Manually monitoring Facebook takes time but you can discover who the frequent posters are in your “Friends” circle and get an idea about who generates the most discussion. I have a few friends who love political debates. The discussions give me another perspective that news media sites don’t because there are no slant or propaganda leanings.

Twitter has grown popular for uncovering the latest trends based on how many discussions there are on a topic. It’s so popular that users know they can drive up the number of tweets to create a trend if they wanted to. Most of the time a quick look at Twitter trends just raises our curiosity.

For example, I found “Baskin Robbins” trending while randomly playing with a search for “Search Engine Land”. As you can see, the trends don’t need to be related to your search terms. And of course, Twitter is smart enough to know a search for Search Engine Land should also point to @DannySullivan!

Trends View

Clicking on the trending “Baskin Robbins” led to results that provided the news (and feelings about) a 31-cent night promotion. Had it not trended, many people might not have known about this limited time special.


Trends Tweets

Tweets on a Trending Topic


Collecting data on trends is the focus of many studies, including ways to create new software that can deliver taxonomy information based on the trending data. Twitter computes trends on an hourly basis (how they do is not made public.)

The information can be used to understand geographical trends and even uncover areas of the world where certain information is more popular than others. (You can search by location in Twitter trends.) Tracking social awareness streams helps us understand a trends origin and context. There’s a difference found between informational/news trends and conversational. Who retweets more? Are local events tweeted less than national events?

An end goal of some of the SAS studies is improving ranking, prioritization and filtering of extracted data. Automated tools can be developed for individuals, organizations and communities wishing to collect and use social awareness streams. Many new ideas are being experimented with.

One experiment from my hometown newspaper is the creation of Tweeter feeds targeting the local community and also inviting the community to tweet, retweet and discuss the items. Even the newspaper publisher is available to tweet with. The result was to get more intimate insight into what the locals care about, which in turn gave them new ideas for stories, columns and new bloggers.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Search & Usability | Search Marketing: Search Term Research


About The Author: is the SEO/Usability Consultant for Cre8pc. Her work combines website and software application usability testing with a working knowledge of search engine optimization.

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