According to Google, “Social Search helps you discover relevant content from your social connections, a set of your online friends and contacts.” This really means social search allows you to stalk without meaning to do so, or, if you’re really strategic, it gives you ultimate creeping access.
Disturbing? Yes. These so called “relevant” results can be created or shared content from your social network friends, things posted to Twitter and Flickr, and content accessed from your Google Reader subscriptions. All of this may seem good in theory, but is it all that great in practice?
Social media offers consumers a whole new way to gather information, research, and stay connected to their friends and loved ones, which includes their favorite brands. Users are given the unique opportunity to post a question and instantly access their panel of followers to get more information and opinions. Feedback has never been so easy. As cool as all of this is, Social Search aims to take searching to the next level. But in reality, this process of incorporating social connections could just bog a user down even more than the 160,847,947 results Google returns in .16 seconds. Think about it.
Social Search will scan through Facebook-generated content from your connections. Let’s consider the nature of most Facebook friendships. Are you really friends with some of your Facebook buddies? No. Did you just accept their friend request because they sit near you in class? Yes. Are you just too lazy to go back and defriend that one kid that you did a group project with three semesters ago and haven’t seen them since? Yes. So given these scenarios, do you really care what content they have seen, created, posted, shared, whatever? Not really. The same theory applies to Twitter. You don’t care what they have tweeted. You also don’t care what they post on their Flickr page. Yet, because of Social Search, you are destined to have to skim through all the crap that interests them. Now, how many of your social network friends fall into this category? Exactly.
Social Search is just a little too targeted. There is a much more useful way to include social media with Google: Filter your results. Easy peasy! A particularly useful way to do this would be to filter your search results using the Real Time option on Google. It focuses primarily on Twitter and let’s face it, those Twitter fans already get more of their news via their feed than other resources. Real Time just capitalizes on that.
For example, type in “Libya” and filter by Real Time. You will see TONS of tweets that have Libya tagged in them or mention them in a link, etc. It automatically updates and you can quickly see a snapshot of what the chatter is. It’s much better than trying Social Search because realistically, a lot of people aren’t paying attention to Libya and their statuses are probably more geared around the weather outside, which defeats the whole purpose.
Social Search may end up bogging users down and giving social media creepers their best weapon yet. The only pro for Social Search is that it is a feature that must be activated, so when you get too creeped out, you can always de-activate it. Seeing how stalker-ish as Social Search is, it makes you wonder, after this, what’s the next step in Google’s quest for world domination? They have the search engine, the chat, the email, wedding planning, the voice, and the phone. When will they stop?