I even went as far as to suggest that social search may represent a sign of desperation on Google's part to remain relevant in the face of "search" decentralization into social channels. After all, social media is becoming the primary source for information sourcing and dissemination for many. If Facebook were to capitalize on this trend, and develop a more robust on-site search experience that intuitively links queries with social connections, preferences and recommendations, it would have a killer app on its hands.
But things have changed since May. Google launched its own social network, Google+, in late June and all of a sudden it was no longer a bystander to the legitimate social scene (let's forget about the Buzz debacle). Since its debut, it's become the fastest growing social network ever and has generally been met with critical acclaim save for a few gripes here and there.
A more complete perspective
Then just this past Wednesday, my fellow Search Insider Rob Garner wrote that Google may actually have a sustainable competitive advantage against the old guard of social media. Garner writes that Google, due to its technological advantage through its search algorithm, is better positioned to provide users with a higher degree of "social relevancy." Google+ can offer up a more socially relevant experience by introducing authority, relevancy and trust in a social setting just as it has done for years via its search results. The biggest challenge facing Google+ then is user adoption.
If Garner's predictions hold true, then Google's dominant position in "search" is well-protected. The combined power of these search and social channels has the potential to create a very fluid synergism. It surrounds the web user with relevant information, content, and products at the very moment of interest and inquiry.
I'm typically a humble person, but...
Anyone who knows me well knows I have a competitive streak. With the baseball playing days of my youth behind me, search engine marketing has become my competitive outlet (sad, I know). After reading Garner's piece this week, I was really kicking myself for not drawing similar conclusions. I've been thinking and writing about much of the same stuff, but never recognized the larger chess match that Google is playing. I should have gone deeper with my own thoughts before putting pen to paper.
And so since Wednesday my head has been whirring with additional thoughts on this subject. I even subjected one of my colleagues to an hour of my ramblings about this because I needed to bounce a few thoughts off someone (thanks again, Abdul). Trust me, there's potentially a lot more here than what's apparent to the lay observer.
Some storylines that we identified during that conversation:
1) Social participation is no longer optional, because the digitally relevant organization is the socially relevant one.
2) Certainly rel=author fits into this equation too. If content relevancy is, in part, based on the authority of the content's author, then surely that has an impact on social suggestions.
3) The marriage of the above two thoughts - does the socially relevant organization need to rely on the relative online authority of the individuals under its employ in order to ensure that its voice is heard?
4) Google+ is the logical replacement for Twitter within Google's Real-Time Search. With a direct pipeline to traditional search results, the advantage is then given to the organization that is socially relevant in the here-and-now.
Sharing last week's leftovers won't cut it.
These themes will only continue to evolve and unfold over time, each with its unique set of exciting possibilities.
I only wish I had thought of them before.