As social media continues to infiltrate our lives, many people are turning to social networks as a search tool and seeking out reviews and recommendations from people they know and trust. With an increasing reliance on social media as a search tool, the idea of integrating the social world with a search engine makes a lot of sense.
Google have cottoned onto it and have developed exactly that by launching Search Plus Your World in the US earlier this year. This social search engine has been developed with personalisation at front of mind. According the Google blog, social search will deliver personalised results such as postings and photos from friends and family. Social profiles and pages will be featured in the search results, allowing us to search for our friends’ profiles and find pages on Google+ that are relevant to our interests.
The downside of Search Plus Your World is that it is limited to Google+. The results that it will return are based on what people within your Google+ network have +1’d. Naturally, other social networks are not impressed with this limitation and have been quite vocal about it. A bookmarklet called Don’t be Evil has been released by Focus on the User, which reorganizes search results to greater emphasise the results from social networks other than Google+. This concept, according to the Focus on the User website, is the brainchild of engineers from various other social networking companies including the majors, Facebook, Twitter and Myspace.
The people at Facebook have their own ideas however for the future of social search. In his recent interview At TechCrunch‘s Disrupt conference, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made it very clear that Facebook will eventually be launching its own social search: “search is interesting. It’s going in this interesting direction. The legacy around search is you get these search engines like Google and Bing and what Yahoo was doing before. You basically type in keywords and the search engine runs some magic to tell you what it thinks the answer is that matches your keyword. But I think search engines are really evolving towards giving you a set of answers. It’s not just like “here, type in something and show me some relevant stuff.” It’s “I have a specific question, answer this question for me.”
“When you think about it from that perspective, Facebook is pretty uniquely positioned to answer a lot of the questions people have. What sushi restaurants have my friends gone to in New York in the past six months and liked? Which of my friends, or friends of friends, work at a company that I’m interested in working at because I want to talk to them about what it’s going to be like to work there.”
The idea of searching for specific answers that are personalised and relevant rather than a simple set of automated results is exciting on many levels. For the individual, it means finding out what your friend’s thought of a restaurant, or who else has tried a beauty salon. For business and marketing professionals, it means a change in marketing strategies, placing more value and focus on content creation and promotion via social media rather than “pure SEO”.
Google+ and Search Plus Your World are only the beginning of what is shaping up to be a massive paradigm shift in the world of online search. While Search Plus Your World is not yet available in Australia, it is only a matter of time before we too will be experiencing more personalised results. Hopefully it lives up to its promise of delivering results and answers that are more relevant to the person searching, but only time will tell.