The final part of a three-part series
You feel like you finally mastered standard search. You’re just starting to wrap your head around mobile search. And now here comes another whopper: social search. What makes this latter playing field so interesting is that Google and Bing aren’t the only two contenders. Facebook and Twitter have their own search engines and are taking the field by storm.
While social search has been around for a few years, it really picked up steam in 2013. So what’s in store for 2014?
The Rise of Social Search Engines
Google and Bing used be the first place you went with any search criteria. You would type in your keywords, sift through the results, and find a link that satisfied your search. Then something changed. Your friends began to share information about their favorite restaurants, travel dreams and preferred clothing retailers. You wanted to know what they were, but Google and Bing couldn’t find that information for you. Facebook and Twitter could.
Welcome to the new Internet landscape where human connections and recommendations have more importance than ever before. Facebook and Twitter are capitalizing on their massive piles of data to develop search engines that not only compete with Google and Bing, but give information – personal information – that Google and Bing can’t easily provide.
Facebook’s biggest achievement of 2013 was its introduction of Graph Search, a semantic search engine that answers your queries with “friend”-generated content. The company quickly enhanced Graph Search by striking a deal with Bing to provide traditional search results and other user-generated content. While Graph Search wasn’t the first social search engine, it was certainly the most powerful of its kind. With over 1 billion people tied into Facebook, it gave people a glimpse into the power of information through social connections.
What about Twitter? It too has a strong following and a search feature, but its strength is in real-time information. Just look at the words above its search bar: “See what’s happening right now”. The power of real-time information is becoming just as important as the power of social connection. Being newsworthy, noteworthy and relevant is what Twitter does best and its search engine gives people that type of information faster than Google or Bing ever could.
Google recognized Twitter’s search potential back in 2009 and attempted to acquire the company. After that didn’t pan out, the company launched the infamous Google Buzz to compete in the same space. The Buzz ultimately fizzled and Google was left scrambling for new ideas to incorporate popular real-time feeds. According to The Street, ”Google ultimately wound up indexing Twitter’s tweets into its search engine, but that deal fell apart.” Of course, Google never gives up and it’s not a matter as if or how they achieve it, but when they do it (which could be 2014). With new opportunities and little consolidation, the competition for search is as fierce as ever.
The Impact of Social Influence
To understand social search, you only have to take a look at the success of review-based websites, like Tripadvisor, Yelp, and Angie’s List. Their success lies in the power of people helping people. Users seek and prefer information provided by other users and they trust that information over some unnamed blogger or big-name corporation. This same principle can explain the meteoric rise of Facebook and Twitter.
Google is well aware of this. In fact, it’s pushed harder to deliver better social content to users through Google Social Search. The search function draws relevant results from your Google+ circles to give you more meaningful and trustworthy results. It’s also one of the reasons why Google has spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting Google+ to recruit new users. The company knows the impact of social influence and its role in the future of search.
Bing is also experimenting with its own social search trials. The most public one is something called Bing Boards. These unique collections appear beside standard listings and bring social information to the forefront of your search results page. The Bing Boards became more promising in late 2013 with Bing’s integration of Pinterest data. Now vivid displays of Pinterest photos add a social element to standard image searches to pique new interest.
The goal of 2014 is to grow your social influence and connect with your audience. Think of social media as the new sales floor and see your posts, tweets, and social content as the new handshake. To give your business a boost this year, you need to become savvy in this social sphere.
- Identify social media opportunities – Maybe you already do Facebook and Twitter. But can Pinterest give you more exposure on Bing? Will creating videos on a YouTube channel help sell products on Google? Look for those opportunities, but never force it. Remember to FOCUS – follow one course until successful – because it’s better to do really well at one social media channel than poorly at five channels. And whatever you do, ensure these opportunities will contribute value to, and integrate nicely with, your 2014 content strategy.
- Increase your social influence – Once you’ve identified social opportunities for your website, build up your content there. Add photos to your Pinterest boards, create videos for Facebook content, and link to your blog from Twitter. Maintain quality so it will be liked, shared, followed and eventually picked up in searches. If you’re struggling to keep up all the work, engage an agency that can help you plan, create, and implement all the content.
- Publicize reviews and testimonials – Create a space for people to comment on your products and/or services. Allowing people to cheer and criticize builds trust and provides good feedback for your customers and your business.
Google and Bing are moving in the same direction, incorporating more social, more mobile, and better content. Facebook and Twitter are tempting users with impressive social and real-time data. All this is keeping the flames of the search engine wars as hot as ever. Who will win in 2014 is hard to say, but all that matters is that you make the smart moves now in traditional, mobile and social search to be in the winner’s pocket later.
If you’re looking for help with your content strategy, SEO, or any search-related tactics, contact LeapGo, a digital marketing agency with expertise and experience in preparing websites for the search wars ahead (and much more too)!