How social is changing your search world
I recall an article that was published in 2008 reporting that Facebook trumped every other photo site with 10 billion photos. Scarily enough, while reading the piece I found myself racking my brains to try and remember the name of an erstwhile leader (and my favorite) in photo-sharing. Then it came to me: Flickr (ah!). This to me clearly signaled the rate of birth and death of brands in internet time.
In a recent report, Mark Zuckerberg predicted that every year, consumers will share twice the amount of content compared with the previous year. Equally exciting are some of the numbers from around the web that report 4 billion conversations, recommendations, photos, videos, posts and shares on Facebook, 200 million on Twitter, and 1 billion on Google+ per day. Exciting times, as you can perceive, with the crescendo building strongly in social-media circles as the ecosystem attracts an increasing number of participants across platforms. And all of these people are creating increasing volumes of self-generated rich content, which proliferates not only within the ecosystem but also is being actively interlaced with the other most powerful platform online: search engines.
These multitudes of conversations within the social space are connecting the dots between total strangers and increasingly have an overwhelming influence on decisions and opinions (note the word strangers).
Social blending into search
It was not longer than three years ago that I stumbled upon a snippet that said that almost 30 per cent of Google search results constitute user-generated content. In the more recent past, I came across another factoid that indicated that 75 to 90 per cent of any given top 10 Google search results contain a Facebook page or a Tweet—mind-blowing indeed!
From the days of the yore when Jerry Yang and David Filo created the Yahoo Directory, which was based on pure human site inclusion, to the days of Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who spawned an automated algorithmic platform that does the indexing, classification, ranking and retrieval based on quality scores, we have seen search evolve rapidly. But now, search has started to look sexy as well, with the blending in of peer-to-peer interactions—powerful experiential content evolving into a highly personalized flavor as well. One can clearly perceive the movement from a centrally controlled model to a totally decentralized, power-to-the-masses model that is increasingly manifesting in countless shades and giving a whole new meaning and persona to the information collection experience.
Bringing your world into search
What am I really droning on about here? Let me ask you if you have noted the Google ‘Search Plus Your World’ campaign that was recently launched with much fanfare? Or the announcement from Bing last year that its search results will start to incorporate dimensions from social media? Let us look at what Google itself said about its ‘Search Plus your World’ feature: “We’re transforming Google into a search engine that not only understands content, but also people and relationships.”
This proposition has extremely high potential if executed well, in my opinion. In simple terms, when you are engaged in searching pointedly for a particular need, the results that are served out will have a high level of blended content from your own social graph that can maximize the potential of making a well-rounded opinion about the topic in question; specifically:
- 1. Google+ posts from your network relevant to your search. These posts can be public or private and relate to virtually all relevant topics within the schema
- 2. Videos, photos and rich content relevant to your query that are pulled out from either your own stream or your network stream
- 3. Personal profiles. Simply typing the first name of your long-lost pal can bring out not only his complete name (via auto-complete) but also his complete profile in Google+, his latest posts/updates and also an option to instantaneously add him to your circles. Not to mention the most prominent people profiles belonging to the same name, if applicable, can appear as options alongside.
- 4. People and pages feature that allows you to search on a topic that is close to your heart, for example, and be presented with a mash-up of rich results that comprise profiles of like-minded people with whom you can immediately connect and start a discussion.
- 5. You can choose to view these personalized results separately or in a blended fashion as well thanks to the toggle control which one can see in the results page.
Google’s plot, I hope, is amply evident here: To bring an all-encompassing Google social experience into your search world, providing a very rich, personalized mash-up alongside the normal search results in order to provide a heightened search experience.
But what I am stressing is the truly powerful evolution of social on one hand and search on the other. An evolution that is poised to change the way we discover, consume and utilize content.
So what is in it for all of us?
To the millions of searchers out there, the evolution of this new dimension has multi-faceted and tremendous potential not only to change the way we search but also the quantum of social media influence that will tend to exert itself in critical decision-making. Imagine getting to know just before you order that much-awaited birthday cake from the popular pastry shop downtown for your wife that your neighbor had a fire-drill thanks to a wrong delivery from the very same shop?
To those hungry marketers out there, it presents an awesome potential of creating, sustaining and nurturing relationships at a lofty and innovative zone through smart usage of the search and social platforms.
As for me, I will just have to wait for that day when ‘Search plus your world’ just does not encapsulate everything in the Google world but everything in the social world as well.
That is when the raw power of social search will truly explode.