…is the most important reason to get your hospital on Twitter.
Once upon a time, Google’s algorithm gave extra weight to pages that had been on the Web for a long time. The thought was that this information was authoritative, and it helped protect against people trying to manipulate results in the short term.
This approach works well for certain types of searches. For example, if you are looking for information about historical events. But use of the Internet is increasingly moving from being the world’s largest reference library to an infinitely large 24×7 breaking news service.
Google expresses the problem as one of content freshness – some content needs to be prioritized based on its newness rather than its longevity. For example, there are times when a search for “earthquake” should prioritize what causes earthquakes or historical earthquakes while other times, breaking news about an earthquake that has just occurred should top the list.
While some of the fresh content comes from new postings from news outlets, an increasing amount of this information finds it way online through user-generated content in the form of blogs, Twitter and other social media channels.
The immediacy of Twitter — along with the size of its user-base — places it in the lead in terms of the real-time Web. The real value of this constant flow of information is not extending beyond individuals’ personal networks as this data gets mined for greater insights.
Enter a new crop of search engines built around real-time search, including Topsy, Collecta, OneRiot and Scoopler. While most of these tools are searching through social media content, these new search engines amount to more than just that. They use Twitter and other social media as a sort of ad hoc voting system to get a sense of what’s important or interesting right now. If 100 people reTweet a link to a blog post about “Meaningful Use” then it’s a safe bet that it’s a good article and worth prioritizing in a search for that topic.
In the future, part of being found online is going to fall to your ability to get some social media buzz about your discussion of key topics. This doesn’t just mean new, breaking topics like H1N1, but may also come into play for searches for key service line topics in the future.
Just one more good reason to start working social media into the mix!