Last night’s SEMPO/AIMA event included speak­ers from Google, Bing, and Newell-Rubber­maid. All panelists came to discuss their efforts in social search, or the incor­po­ra­tion of social networks into search.

Takeaways

The algo­rithms of the major search engines increas­ingly try to bring the user results that are rele­vant to them. Social search is one means to this end. If search is able to incor­po­rate the recom­men­da­tions of your friends and online contacts through tools such as Facebook’s “Like” button and Google’s “ 1” button, then the results are more likely to be mean­ing­ful to the user.

The engines have inte­grated social into search with strong visual cues, includ­ing images of your friends and brightly colored icons. It is there­fore more impor­tant than ever to have your content shared via the social graph (A term often used by Face­book, but gener­ally meaning the map of rela­tion­ships online).

Take­aways for brands are to make it easy for users to share your content. Place the “Like” button and the “ 1” button on your arti­cles, videos and pictures. Some brands have even begun incen­tiviz­ing their users to share their content, provid­ing discounts for “Like” and ” 1″ clicks. A much smarter approach is taking this oppor­tu­nity to improve the quality of your web content casino jame­shal­li­son so that users will genuinely want to share your content. If you have been toying around with the idea of build­ing out a blog, guide, widget, or other asset that will be useful to your user base, it’s time for those ideas to go live.

Questions

As for the future of person­al­ized search there were three issues touched on last night that weren’t directly addressed by Google or Bing, but were left as food for thought.

  1. Users can “Like” content, but can’t “Dislike” content. There is no way within the current system for users to contribute their opinion when they come across a partic­u­larly bad site, service or product. Of course the absence of a “Like” will not contribute to a link’s edge in the search engine results page as much as having one would, but are the engines going to penal­ize sites that have not been “liked”? Will sites without social sharing links be penal­ized?
  2. What does “Like”ing content really mean? Stan­dard star ratings for example allow you to show just how much you like a product by giving it some­where between 1 and 5 stars. Is a “Like” an unequiv­o­cal endorse­ment of a product? Seeing that your friends recom­mend a product may help nudge a user in a certain direc­tion, but there are always pros and cons along­side any recom­men­da­tion. Further, we are all guilty of posting certain things on our social media profiles that we may not fully endorse, but post instead to main­tain our online persona. For example, I may listen to 80’s rock 95% percent of my day, but post Mozart to my Face­book wall to main­tain my intel­lec­tual online persona.
  3. As search becomes increas­ingly person­al­ized, the infor­ma­tion we are exposed to will become more and more tailored to our personal inter­ests, and poten­tially impor­tant infor­ma­tion could be edited out. Eli Pariser, author of “The Filter Bubble” says in on the subject that “the search engine algo­rithm sends us what it thinks we want to see, not neces­sar­ily what we need to see.” As search becomes more person­al­ized, we may not be exposed to the impor­tant, uncom­fort­able, and chal­leng­ing infor­ma­tion that we other­wise would have. Poten­tial solu­tions to this problem are giving the user more control over the person­al­iza­tion of their searches and provid­ing more trans­parency into the person­al­ized search algo­rithm.

I look forward to seeing how the search engines will address all three of these issues. With the speed that the social graph has been incor­po­rated into search, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see answers soon.