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Search Starting To Go Social

Search is so old school.  Perhaps because algorithms are so impersonal.

I think Yahoo answers was on to something with their recognition that people don’t want to search.  What they really want is answers.

Now, with social media, it’s all coming together.

Why bother with an algorithm or the advice of strangers when you can get answers to your questions from people who know you best!

This New York Times Article, “Search Takes a Social Turn” highlights some interesting ways in which search is going social in a number of different categories.

A few highlights worth noting:

While user-contributed review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor have long been popular ways to get a quick reading on a new place to eat, the sheer volume of reviews they offer can be overwhelming.

And the reliability of those reviews can be hard to gauge. Some may have been planted by management, while others are from disgruntled customers with a bone to pick.

The trust factor of friends’ suggestions can make a big difference.

Amazon.com now allows its shoppers to connect to their Facebook accounts so that Amazon can display their friends’ favorite books, films and other products.TunerFish, a start-up owned by Comcast, lets users share what television shows and movies they are watching, mapping out an up-to-the-minute TV guide of programs gaining in popularity among their friends.

And Loopt, a location-focused social network with 3.4 million registered users, recently began showing them which of their friends liked a particular restaurant.

Facebook has its own recommendation system in place. The service allows its 500 million members to click a button to indicate what news articles, companies and celebrities they “like,” and it shares data about those preferences with its Web partners. When a Facebook user visits a Web site like Yelp or TripAdvisor, they are shown reviews from friends before they get to those from strangers.

Facebook recently began introducing a feature called Facebook Questions that allows users to pose questions to friends and strangers using the site. Last month it introduced a service called Places that encourages people to “check in” at places they visit and broadcast their location to friends.

This isn’t to say that search is going away anytime soon.

The trick is to figure out which categories are most likely to be “social search” focused and to help our clients find relevant inroads into those conversations.

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