Analyst: Search Is Social's Sweet Spot

In a week when Google promoted its Twitter feed on its heavily trafficked home page, a top digital marketing expert said he expects social networks to offer more robust search capabilities soon. In addition to an improved consumer experience, search can be a notable revenue generator for Twitter and Facebook, particularly if it allows swift discovery of what a person's friends are discussing or even buying.

"More searches are going to start to be done inside social networks," said Steve Rubel, director of insights at Edelman. "Social networks are going to start to make it easier for you to search content at point of information."

Referencing the paid-search model, Rubel called it a "tremendous monetization opportunity."

"(If) people can search what friends are sharing, it can create money," he said Thursday at the Direct Marketing Association's Social Media Spotlight event.

Friend information "creates a layer of trust on top of search, which is very powerful," he added. Word-of-mouth, after all, is well-noted as the premiere marketing vehicle.

Still, as Rubel looked ahead, he said he believes Facebook will be around in a decade, but he's less sure about Twitter as the online communication world turns over rapidly. He also said he thinks the Google Wave tool that has been generating some excitement has some kinks that have not yet been ironed out.

As Rubel offered thoughts on social media, he addressed the much-discussed topic of the future of email marketing. What's known as "email bankruptcy" -- where a person deletes all unread emails in one swoop -- is apparently growing.

"People who declare bankruptcy have a theory," Rubel said, "that if there's something really important in there, someone will contact you again."

Nevertheless, Rubel said "all roads still go through email" -- notably, it serves as a seed for social networking. Separately, Rubel told marketers in attendance there is no sense in trying to identify the next Twitter. Instead, focus on the trends, and monitor consumer behavior.

"Trends are sometimes harder to see, but you also have a lot more time to pivot early and take advantage of them," he said.

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