Google announced a new service called Social Search which shows search results from sites owned by the searchers online friends. Currently an opt-in service but widely expected to go live over the next few months it cements the need for brands to have a Twitter account, Facebook page & a decent blog.
Data on a person’s social circle is pulled from their contacts in Gmail, the people they follow on Twitter, the blogs they read on Google Reader. Google has a help centre article explaining more about how it works.
All the information that appears as part of Google Social Search is published publicly on the web — you can find it without Social Search if you really want to. The content has been surfaced together in one single place to make results more relevant. This is done by building a social circle of a person’s friends and contacts using the connections linked from their public Google profile, such as the people they are following on Twitter or FriendFeed. The results are specified to them, so they would need to be signed in to their Google Account to use Social Search. If you use Gmail, also included are your chat buddies and contacts in your friends, family, and coworkers groups. And if you use Google Reader, some websites from your subscriptions as part of your social search results are also included.
More to come…
At present Google is only including these results as a universal search element in the same way they embed news results. However there is little doubt that in the same way news results are giving priority for certain queries we will start to see results from our social circles being given a boost in the normal search results too.
This makes perfect sense; if I follow a brand on Twitter or are fans of a site on Facebook then they are more relevant to me than another brand that happens to have more links.
Optimizing for social search
Take a look at the data points Google is using and make sure you are making attempts to increase your followers, subscribers & friends in each of those areas. It’s not easy for brands to be social but those that manage it are likely to reap the rewards.