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Google Search Appliance Now Finds Tweets

Social media is infiltrating the business world, like it or not.

Though skeptics continue to scoff at the value of social media to businesses, Google acts as if the argument is settled.

On Thursday, Google said that its search hardware for enterprises, the Google Search Appliance, can now show users' tweets alongside internal search results.

"Social information is important for businesses: Employees searching for information needed to do their jobs benefit from real-time news too," said Google product manager Cyrus Mistry in a blog post. "They might be developing a new breakfast cereal, or designing a marketing plan for a clothing line, or writing strategy report for a political campaign. In all of these cases, understanding what is being said just as Twitter users are saying it can be invaluable."

The presentation of Twitter messages in internal search results follows Google's practice of providing Related Web Results next to corporate search results. According to Mistry, Google's enterprise customers value this juxtaposition because it helps employees "leverage the wisdom of the crowd."

Through Twitter itself may not have entirely won over the business community, those dismissing the value of the underlying concept -- real-time information -- appear to be increasingly in the minority.

Google this week introduced real-time information in its search results through a series of partnerships with the likes of Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Jaiku and Identi.ca, following a similar arrangement recently struck with Twitter.

Yahoo Search on Thursday also expanded the placement of tweets in its search results.

"We think that social media in general has a lot of potential within the enterprise, if done well," said Rajen Sheth, a senior product manager at Google.

Social media for Google isn't just Twitter. It encompasses the social graph, real-time information streams, and collaborative content, Sheth explains.

Unlike the consumer world, where participation in social media services tends to be deliberate, Sheth says that business users just don't have time to operate the same way. As a result, Google's business-oriented social media efforts have tried to integrate social networking and collaboration into the tools that people already use.

Sheth points to the way that Gmail and Google Docs remember the connections people make by sending e-mail and sharing documents. "We kind of give you your own social graph based on the connections you make," he said.

With regard to the value of real-time information, Sheth said that within four minutes of Google's announcement on Wednesday that Google Groups had been added to the Google Apps suite, there were over 1000 tweets about the news, before most sites covered the announcement.

Businesses need to be able to leverage that kind of information, Sheth contends.

"More and more, as social technology becomes available, it can't be something on the side, it has to be integrated in what we already do," said Sheth.

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