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.
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.
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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.