Investing in Social Search

with 13 Comments

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.

original photo

13 Responses

  1. Matthew Brazil
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    A well considered piece. Social search is changing the way consumers do things on the internet. Consumers search the social sphere for recommendations, referrals and information around brand, product, service or company.

    Google, Yahoo and others are investing in this area. Yahoo is a good case in point, they already own many social platforms and are committed to the area.

    From a corporate perspective, searching the social sphere, aggregating then analyzing the conversations for trends, sentiment or other is equally as important.

  2. Stuart G Hall
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    Be interesting to hear what Tim Berners-Lee thinks of this as I recall him muttering darkly about trivial data on blogs in 2007 (http://www.stuart-hall.com/2007/09/21/what-sir-ti

    IOW to ask the big Q how does this all dovetail with the semantic web then?

  3. jakrose
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    it is definitely a piece of the semantic. one that I don't think most people thought of when all the web 3.0 chatter about smarter data began. maybe the semantic web is a more social web with smarter search

  4. jakrose
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    brand tracking is of course a key piece of social search. i think that is what will drive most of the investment. companies need that data

  5. Andy
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    I am looking forward to the day this type of search, that is so common on Twitter, works across all the social networking platforms, including youtube and flickr so that it is not just fresh and relevant like you say, but also media rich.

    Great thoughts J. Looking forward to meeting you in Austin.

  6. BrandonUttley
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    Jason, nice article and thought process. I think a lot of companies and individuals (like syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, who trashed Twitter today without actually using it), are missing out on the opportunities afforded by the increasing volume of user-generated information and the resulting, real-time searchable stream of data. Recent news articles warn that Twitter is now taking over Google in that respect. (MercuryNews.com).

    Your example of the Twitter job search in particular is a great and timely example of what is possible. We'll see a lot more specialized search sites pop up that filter content from multiple sites.

  7. Jim @smashadv
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    Nice post Jason. A lot to chew isn't it? Wow.

  8. Barry Deutsch
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    Outstanding suggestion. General search through google or yahoo is so cumbersome to bring together all the conversations, tips, hints, web pages into one bucket that can then be sorted, sliced and diced to my satisfaction.

    Now you have to use very specialized tools to get at the social media content in most cases. I'm using Twitter Search, backtype for blog postings, delicious for bookmarking, digg to see what others consider useful, and so on – all around the word "job search".

    I'm amazed at the tools and technology others are starting to play with in this space to digest and analyze the content/information.

  9. Sharron Field
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    Heck yes; it's actually getting quite mind-boggling as to the massive amount of information available on the social networks.

    Currently the major player in social networking is the USA. As soon as the rest of the world catches up, the population grows, the number of computer-users increases, and therfore the third-world and all start social-networking; the amount of data will be colossal. Is current technology even able to cope with storing/archiving such vast amounts of data? Search engines would maybe need a small country full of servers to do so?

  10. MLDina
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    I can't wait to see what the future of social media holds. I would love to see more brands interacting with their customers through social networks, they'd get a lot of valuable information.

  11. Konstanze
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    Agree with you on the Twitter search capability and usefulness. Additionally, it is a different kind of knowledge/information that is archived than that found by google (which I use hourly). I'm doing some research on micro-blogging if you are interested. http://konjektures.com
    Greetings, Konnie
    @Konstanze

  12. Susan/2ndIncomeBiz
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    Socail search is fascinating to me. I feel like I'm watching marketing and communicaition trends change before my eyes. Each day I learn something new and it's hard to keep up. Many of us are trying. I can't imagine what is going to happen to business who have not even tried to learn the trends of social media

  13. jakrose
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    @Susan I think you are right, a lot of companies that are late to the game will be playing catchup. That void will be filled though with ad agencies and and internal marketing departments buying the social media talent that does know how it all works.