Twitter to Become Your Online GPS

This week Twitter announced a new feature for twitter.com and mobile.twitter.com called Twitter Places.

The idea is to allow users to tag their Tweets with their specific location, acting like an online GPS of sorts. The geo-location data is made possible with the help of Twitter partners TomTom (manufacturer of in-car GPS navigation systems) and Localeze (a search marketing firm specializing in local search).

Apart from tweeting your own location, the new feature allows you to click a Twitter Place within a Tweet to see recent Tweets from a particular location. Users of geo-social networking services Foursquare and Gowalla will be excited, because the new feature now integrates with these services. If you click on a registered Twitter Place, not only will you see standard tweets from that location, but you’ll also see recent check-ins from Foursquare and Gowalla.

The timing of Twitter’s new feature launch deliberately coincided with the kick off of the World Cup, to encourage people to tweet from and view tweets from World Cup stadiums in South Africa. From the official blog post about the launch:

“When turning to Twitter to keep up with the current game, it helps to know where a Tweet is coming from – is that person watching the game on TV or is he actually in the stadium? To help answer that question, we’re excited to announce Twitter Places”

Unfortunately, Twitter engineers did not account for the popularity of such a feature during a major sporting event and demand actually crashed their own servers for a few hours this week. More about that in another post.

Twitter Places is designed to work with the existing “Tweet with your location” functionality. Instructions for activating Twitter Places using the location function can be found in Twitter’s Help Center.

The new feature will be rolling out to users in 65 countries this week. You’ll know the feature is activated in your country when you see the “Add your location” link below the Tweet box when you’re logged in at Twitter.com

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The Ability to Twitter From @anywhere

At the recent SXSW Conference, Twitter Co Founder Ev Williams announced a major framework they have in the pipeline called @anywhere.

The idea sprouted from the difficulty people have when they browse web sites and want to follow particular persons or businesses they come across on Twitter. At the moment, if you want to do this, unless there is an obvious “Follow me on Twitter” link, you need to conduct a search for the person or business on Twitter, locate their account and then login to your Twitter account to add them.

@anywhere will apparently enable web surfers to interact and follow people directly from their web sites with a single click. From the official blog post :

“Soon, sites many of us visit every day will be able to recreate these open, engaging interactions providing a new layer of value for visitors without sending them to Twitter.com…

When we’re ready to launch, initial participating sites will include Amazon, AdAge, Bing, Citysearch, Digg, eBay, The Huffington Post, Meebo, MSNBC.com, The New York Times, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, and YouTube. Imagine being able to follow a New York Times journalist directly from her byline, tweet about a video without leaving YouTube, and discover new Twitter accounts while visiting the Yahoo! home page…”

Participating site owners won’t need an API to make this happen either – apparently @anywhere will run via a few lines of javascript added to their HTML code. Already, 13 of the biggest web players have signed up for @anywhere, including sites like Amazon, Bing, Yahoo! and YouTube.

No launch date has been announced yet, but Twitter’s blog hints it will be *soon*.

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Twitter Says Yahoo! to a Larger Audience

Yahoo and Twitter announced a partnership today that will see Twitter provide Yahoo with access to their full tweet feed, nicknamed The Firehose.

The deal will result in tweets appearing in Yahoo Search as well as other Yahoo properties such as the Yahoo Homepage, Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Sports. Yahoo will also integrate Twitter clients into their various applications so that Twitter users can tweet from within the Yahoo network.

The partnership announcement was delivered to media with an embargo, but within a few hours the story broke on the blogosphere and Yahoo pretty much gave the game away with the *clues* they posted on Twitter.

With a worldwide audience of 600 million, Yahoo offers Twitter significant exposure to add to their existing partnerships with the other major search giants Bing and Google.

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Google Takes a “Buzz” Saw to Twitter

We’ve all been expecting it, but today was the day Google decided to roll out their answer to Twitter: Google Buzz.

I haven’t had much of a play with it yet, but the fact that it’s integrated with Gmail will probably make it very popular, very quickly.

From the official Google Blog post:

“Google Buzz is a new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting. It’s built right into Gmail, so you don’t have to peck out an entirely new set of friends from scratch – it just works. If you think about it, there’s always been a big social network underlying Gmail. Buzz brings this network to the surface by automatically setting you up to follow the people you email and chat with the most.

We focused on building an easy-to-use sharing experience that richly integrates photos, videos and links, and makes it easy to share publicly or privately (so you don’t have to use different tools to share with different audiences). Plus, Buzz integrates tightly with your existing Gmail inbox, so you’re sure to see the stuff that matters most as it happens in real time.”

I plan to write a detailed article about Google Buzz, but here’s a quick run down of the main features:

  • Runs within Gmail
  • Embeds images
  • Embeds inline video
  • Emails status updates
  • Automatically works on mobiles without 3rd party applications
  • Connects to Picasa, Flickr & Twitter
  • No 140 character limit

It’s interesting that it integrates with Twitter. That suggests a deal has been done behind closed doors to ensure both products don’t compete head to head, but Twitter may still lose some audience now that Gmail offers both chat and a link sharing tool.

In some ways, it’s more like Stumble Upon in that it’s a more powerful tool for sharing links, videos and images than Twitter is. But because it operates within Gmail, I’m concerned that much of the conversation will be lost between email threads. We’ll have to wait and see.

I for one won’t be abandoning Twitter in a hurry.

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Twitter Adds Local Trends Tracking Tool

Twitter quietly rolled out a new feature today that enables users to choose a regional preference for viewing trending topics.

Called Twitter Local Trends, the new functionality gives users the option to set their regional location and view trending topics happening in their part of the world. For example, one of the screenshots pictured shows that the topic “Trafalgar Square” is trending for users that have United Kingdom set as their region (because it relates to a well known London icon), but not for users that have set their region to Worldwide.

At this stage, only seven countries and 15 cities in the US are available for selection (see screenshot below) but more will be added soon.

According to a post on Mashable, the feature has only rolled out to around 1 percent of Twitter users, but there’s nothing official on the Twitter Blog about it yet. I noticed it in my account this afternoon so I’m not sure if I’m part of the lucky 1 percent or whether it has rolled out to a larger audience since it went live this morning.

Regardless, when it does roll out to everyone, it will make a huge difference to how we use Twitter to target a regional audience. The benefits for geo-based mobile apps like Four Square and Gowalla should be immediately apparent. Add to that the ability to pinpoint regional trends in real time search and this becomes a social media game changer.

Everybody knows a business that is still sceptical about using Twitter. But when they see they have the power to follow and influence social media conversation in their specific target markets using Local Trends, I think even the sceptics could be convinced to start using Twitter as a full time marketing channel.

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