Investing in Social Search

by | Mar 3, 2009

Are  Google & Yahoo paying attention to search within social networking?

As Social Media continues to evolve and grow, it is gathering epic amounts of information. Extracting value from that information is becoming easier. I gain a lot of value from the time I invest into social media. Typically this value comes in small pieces – a great conversation here, a business tip there, an answer to a nagging question, etc. But it is nice to step back and look at the broader volume of knowledge being exchanged within social media.

forest-for-the-trees

You Can’t See the Forest for the Trees

Or in simpler terms, we are so involved in the small details, the status updates and photo tagging, that sometimes we don’t stop and see the larger picture. Social denotes people interacting with people, passing along information they care about. Search within this social web can supply us with more timely, relevant information and from many perspectives. This is shifting what we assign value to online and therefore the way we gather information. Search engines should recognize this wealth of information within social networks and build tools to capitalize on it.

Simple Path through a Crowded Wood

Some of the information out there, floating from person to person,  is pretty trivial. Researching what all the people on Twitter ate for breakfast for instance might not help you learn much, but it is data nonetheless. Anyone to dive into these conversations, happening all around us, and get some very cool information in return.

As an example, let us say you are looking for a job. Beyond job searching on LinkedIn, you should be searching on Twitter. This specific search shows you every mention of the phrase “they are hiring”, “they’re hiring”, and “new job opening”. I counted about a dozen real hiring opportunities from that one search within the last 24 hours. And that was without much thought or planning. Put a little research and creativity into it and you could get even more relevant results.

First to Market

Twitter’s speed makes it the front line of information in times of crisis and for major news stories. It can bring you first hand accounts of a plane crash, presidential acceptance speech, or terrorist attack. These information sources are unfiltered, personal, and agile. Google cannot compete in these situations.

Watching the trending topics on Twitter Search is one easy way to get a sense of the speed and volume that we are talking about. And Twitter is tiny compared to the bigger networks. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Myspace have all adopted status updates and tagging of some sort. Tagging and status updates can create a lot of information. The tools to search and digest this information is growing. The functionality of Twitter search will expand to other social networks and technologies.

More Relevance

The speed and access to information that social media allows can put you in touch with experts in many fields. You can get advice from multiple experts on everything from nutrition to real estate to SEO within minutes. Normal search engines can provide similar results, perhaps not as quickly, but maybe with more details. But, social searching can too. Your sources may point you to top online resources in less time than it would take for you to discern for yourself.

Also adding to social search’s relevance is the fact that you may have already built up a connection or trust with the source of the information. If so, the information you gain is even more valuable to you personally.

Most Discussed not Most Linked To

Using  links as votes is a large part of most search engines’ algorithms. Google has wisely started gathering user information by allowing users to personalize these search results. One of the next steps is being able to search through the “most discussed” results of a query, not just the one with more links.  Sites like TweetMeme are already sorting out links that are forwarded the most. Other sites return search results across multiple social networks. Being able to search these results, a database of socially screened resources, presents some cool opportunties.

Any search engine that is not paying attention to the potential and growth of searching within social networks will begin to lose their value.

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