Where did you begin the last time you looked for a new primary care physician (or a specialist to cure your unsettling, Internet-diagnosed affliction)?
Turning to friends, family, and acquaintances for their recommendations is a common solution. Whether you’re seeking a good restaurant, hotel, or hospital bed, the people in your social network are a key source of information.
Launch a browser or mobile app today, and you will rapidly encounter dozens of consumers actively sharing brand experiences that range from generally positive (search for replies to @zappos) to overwhelmingly negative (@bpglobalpr). The wide adoption of social platforms, and the exploding interest in social media marketing, has made it important to participate in the conversations, but to what end?
Enter a new, more passive form of connecting social networks and brands.
Search platforms, like Google, have begun to integrate results culled from the searcher’s social networks. Meanwhile, social platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, are turning to search as way of deriving further value from their data.
Facebook, in particular, appears to be challenging Google’s search dominance. When a user searches on Facebook, items “liked” by their friends are displayed as highly relevant results, essentially creating a socially-aware version of Google’s PageRank algorithm.
These new layers describing personal relationships sit on top of the existing data about page content and the digital linkages among sites. They serve as a new lens for focusing search results, revealing new possibilities for determining relevance. Staying relevant in this changing sea of data requires a continual effort.
It remains to be seen if Facebook can become a major player among search engines, and where Google’s next step into the social Web will land. However, we are headed into a new era in search, where findability relies not solely on content, but also on social context.