There is a lot of chatter across the inter-web about “social search”. No, It’s not a bunch of friends in a room comparing search results. But, while we’re not sitting “together” in a room searching for things, what our friends search for collectively will have a direct impact on the result.
The intention of Social Search is to return results from your friends (friends = social networks) based on their recommendations, likes and general feelings they have toward the objects you look for online. Here is an extract from the patent taken out by Facebook;
“The invention provides still another technique to improve the relevance of search results. According to an embodiment of the invention, search results, including sponsored links and algorithmic search results, are generated in response to a query, and are ranked based on the frequency of clicks on the search results by members of social network who are within a predetermined degree of separation from the member who submitted the query. The predetermined degree of separation is equal to one if the click activities of only the friends of the member who submitted the query are to be examined. “
What’s the point? I’ll let Christian Oestlien, from Google explain “Recommendations play a vital role in our decision-making process,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “You look at the advice of people you know and trust.”
What are the implications?
This will mean instead of asking your friends what they think, you will just ask your search engine. But more than that, you will be able to gauge if an acquaintance has shown any interest in the same thing you’re looking for, without even asking them. I guess the question begs, “Do I really want to know the opinion of my social network? Do I really want to know the car I just purchased is being labeled by my friends as ‘ugly’? What if I’m on the verge of purchasing something that I really had my heart set on and I read that my friend says it’s terrible?
Social Search will also have an impact on the way we search for brands. I know if I read a bad review from an anonymous consumer, it affects my opinion of a brand. But if poor review is from a friend, I would definitely consider seeking an alternative brand to deal with. Many brands will be fine; however, those that don’t recognise that customer service and satisfaction are paramount will be negatively affected.
But, if ignorance is bliss, don’t ask the social search engine.