The Social Search Buzz Dance

Today I was looking at the recent trend in social media buzz about “social search”.  I saw something that was interesting to my eye.

Social buzz on "social search"

The blue line in this graph is the overall mentions of the phrase “social search” in all blogs tracked by BlogPulse.com

The orange line is the portion of mentions of the phrase “social search” and Google.

The green line is the portion of mentions of the phrase “social search” and either Microsoft or Bing.

I noticed a few things:

  1. The buzz in blogs about “social search” overall tracks closely to work done by Google or Microsoft in that area.
  2. The spikes in buzz are usually related to some news or announcement from one of these companies.
  3. The spike in buzz on Jul 15th is related to an accidental reveal of an internal social search engine research project at Microsoft (first discovered by Fusible, and then picked up by Search Engine Land, and covered in many outlets including here at Bing Watch and Microsoft-Watch).

There are a lot of startups and other entrepeneurs working on social search related technologies and services.  Do these generate any buzz at all in social media?

Social media buzz on "Social search" - buzz generated about something other than Microsoft's or Google's work

In this trend graph above, the blue line is the same as with the first trend graph on top, and the orange line is buzz about “social search” that does not mention Google, Microsoft or Bing.

There’s a trickle of non-Google, non-Microsoft buzz regarding “social search”.

But the overall public discourse on “social search”, the social search buzz dance if you will, is dominated by Google and Microsoft.  I see this as further evidence that “social search” as we are currently viewing it in the market will be mainstream search engine features, as I wrote about it in this post on The Evolution of Social Search.

In related news, my startup Zakta, officially announced the public availability of SearchTeam.com, the world’s first real-time collaborative search and curation engine.  It is the first search engine on the Web to allows friends, classmates, family members, colleagues and other trusted people to search together and find and share what they need.

Here is a (~1 minute) concept video that shows the idea behind SearchTeam:

Here is a (~ 3 minute) guided tour video of the capabilities of SearchTeam:

For those of you who prefer to browse through a set of screenshots at your pace, rather than watch the videos, here’s a pdf file with annotated screenshots of SearchTeam.com.

Early reviews have been quite positive, with promising applications of SearchTeam in School, at Home and at Work.  I’d like to personally extend my gratitude to all of you who have tweeted, blogged or otherwise shared SearchTeam with your social circles.  Innovation like SearchTeam can thrive only through the support of people like you.  Thank you for your support!

The Evolution of Social Search

I was going to write a post earlier this year about social search, and it was going to be titled: “Does anyone care about social search anymore?“.  I was genuinely wondering what had happened to the “social search” meme, which was all the rage in 2009!  As it turns out, I never did write that post.  And just as well.  You can see why in this BlogPulse trend graph below:

You will notice two spikes in the trend graph, one in mid-February, and another in early April.

In mid-February Google announced deeper integration of social data from Twitter, Flickr, and Quora.  MG Siegler wrote this on TechCrunch about this mid-February social search update:

What Google is sort of downplaying as just an “update” to social search, is actually much more. Google is taking those social circle links at the bottom of the page, pumping them with social steroids, and shoving them towards the top of results pages. For the first time, social is actually going to affect Google Search in a meaningful way.

In early-April, Google announced its +1 button to rival Facebook’s Like button.  I wrote about this in this earlier post on Social Search and Google +1.

… Google has demonstrated that they consider social signals as an important element of their ranking of search results.  So, does the Google +1 launch officially make Google a social search engine? 

After a long lull in “social search” buzz, we hear two big announcements related to social search in the span of two months in 2011 from Google.  What does this mean for “social search”?  It will be fair to say that “social search” is a real phenomenon, and is rapidly evolving.

By the way, other people have pondered about the evolution of social search over the past few years, and here’s a couple of earlier posts on this topic you might find interesting:

  • October 2010, Lauren Fisher, TNW Social Media: The Evolution of Social Search – Lauren wrote about the potential business impacts of the emerging social search phenomena. Among the observations Lauren makes is this: “The impact that social search can have on the SEO industry is huge, and it represents a fundamental shift in the way this operates. While SEO has typically been a longer-term strategy, often taking weeks of months to see the fruits of your labour, social search has changed all that.”, and clearly, we are seeing signs in the SEO market that the impact of social on search is a key part of modern SEO work.
  • March 2011, Jeniffer Van Grove, Mashable: The Future of Social Search – Jeniffer argues that since search is rapidly changing, so is social search and that we should be thinking of social search in broader terms than just “socially ranked search results”.  Her parting remarks in this post: “We’re just now scratching the surface of what’s possible when one’s expanding social graph becomes intertwined with search. But as time goes on, the social search experience will be so fluid — it will seem more like discovering than searching — we won’t even know it’s happening.

Here is my own take (thoughts and predictions) about the evolution of social search:

  • Social search, as we now know it, becomes a mainstream search engine feature:  It is evident that Google is fully integrating social signals to alter their search results ranking.  We can only expect this integration to go broader (more social signals) and deeper (better integration of social signals).  This will drive a flurry of interest and activity on the part of companies and content creators to learn and incorporate “social search” related elements in their own online content and marketing strategies.
  • Aggregate social signals will continue to impact search result ranking: I think that using aggregate social signals to alter search result ranking is an idea that is here to stay – this is what Zakta.com does, and the reason for this is that this can be done in a way where the value can be delivered without getting destroyed by privacy issues or spam issues.
  • Social circle recommendations will aid a minority of search results:  I think that integrating signals of recommendations of people from my social circle into my search results is interesting – but the percentage of queries for which a user’s social circle has a meaningful recommendation will be low, and this is due to the very nature of the wide range of topics we typically search for, and the constitution of our social circles
  • Privacy concerns will hamper broad adoption:  I think that a large percentage of users are going to be concerned in opening up their social circles and content flows from within them to mainstream search engines. In turn, this will be a hurdle for broad adoption of social circles into search.
  • Facebook social search will be here:  Social search won’t remain just in the bastion of search engines.  Facebook will be a huge player in this.  As I see it, Facebook has at least two major assets as it pertains to social search: (1) a growing base of registered users with their growing social graphs, and (2) an enormous growing set of social signals fueled through a lot of social sharing within Facebook, their seemingly ubiquitous Facebook Like button, and new social sharing widgets they are deploying in the market.  How long before we see an innovative “social search” tool from Facebook that leverages all these massive assets they have!
  • Social search startups will innovate along different paths: Social search is a buzzword that has meant the incorporation of social search signals in search results.  But that is a rather limiting view of what can be possible when social and search are combined.  I think we can expect new solutions to enter the market that will vastly expand the definition and understanding of social search in the coming months and years.  I think that social search startups will innovate along different paths not taken by mainstream search engines so far.

Talking of different paths of innovation with social search, here’s a shameless plug for what we are doing at Zakta, my startup.  There are two directions that Zakta is taking which are different than mainstream approaches to social search:

  1. Curation:  I think that personal and social curation of search results is key to delivering relevance and ongoing value for informational searches.
  2. Collaboration: I think that real-time and asynchronous collaboration between trusted people (social circle / professional circle) is key to leveraging group knowledge and work as it pertains to informational searching and Web-based information research.

Zakta’s new service, SearchTeam, is a real-time collaborative search and curation engine that is based on the principles of curation and collaboration applied to the context of the informational search process / information research.  SearchTeam is not officially launched yet, but you can try it out today at SearchTeam.com.

What do you think about social search and where it is going?

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