Last October, Google announced it was rolling out a new product aimed at increasing search result relevancy to the user: Google Social Search. What is Social Search, what are the benefits to you, and how can you use it? Currently, the program is still in an experimental phase, but you can already engage and use this new product, provided you have a Google Account.
In fact, opting in at this point in the game may be a good thing for business owners and advertisers. True, Social Search is not widely used or even widely known about at this point to the layperson, but if you can harness this new service and couple it to your existing social networks, you may be ahead of the curve as far as getting your business listed, to your social circle at least, in a more pertinent way.
OK, so you’ve opted into the experiment and you’ve set up your Google account. Now what? It is necessary to add your contacts, chat buddies, networks, and media sharing or networking sites (including Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, Flickr, etc.) to your public profile so Google can retrieve your contacts through various avenues. In addition to these contacts and networks, you are encouraged to add as many links as you’d like. Anything pertaining to your business or interests (websites, blogs, etc.) will give Google more to draw from when creating your personalized search results. Of course, you choose what privacy and security settings you desire, and the more liberal you are, the more Google Social Search will work for you, since Google will also figure out your “friends of friends” to add to your larger social network.
So what are these search results and how do we see them? Once you are opted into Social Search and have set up your Google profile and contacts, your Google searches will often include two results at the bottom of the page from members of your social circle. These results will be listed under the header “Results from People in your Social Circle for ___.” Google’s claim is while the other natural rankings are the most universally relevant, these two results will be the most relevant to you. These can include tweets, blog posts, restaurant reviews, photos, and much more that your friends have posted at some point regarding your search query. Additionally, if you like what you see, you can click on the top header to be directed to a full page of results solely from your contacts and sites accessed from your profile. You will even have the option to do a search among your social circle to find out if anyone you know has posted anything in relation to what you are looking for. This is great for on-the-spot decisions regarding restaurants, hotels, and other purchases, and will likely become invaluable for the mobile user for just this reason.
As you build your network and expand your social circle, your results will become more useful and you will notice Google Social Search appearing more and more often in your search results. However, it is important to note that the more people following you, the more traceable your actions will be across the internet. For the average user, this may mean taking a closer look at your privacy settings and making decisions based on your comfort level. For the advertiser, it will become crucial to building trust with your social circle by engaging with them and presenting yourself and your business in a favorable light.
Google Social Circle is an up-and-coming way to search, connect, and leverage your networking skills online. Get started now, especially if you already have spent time building up your internet contacts, and you will soon see that time and energy hit pay dirt in your search results.
Contributed by Amanda Finch, VP Operations