So what exactly is Social Search? It’s one of Google’s answers to Facebook – or at least a way to introduce social factors into search. It only works when you’re actually signed in to your Google account. Basically, it’s a way to make online content from your friends more visible to you in the search results.
The example Google likes to use to show how it works involves a searcher planning his next vacation with Google searches. He decides he wants to take a camping trip, and when he searches on camping trips, he finds a tweet partway down the page from a friend of his who just came back from Yosemite. He knows it’s from his friend, because he can see a thumbnail image next to a sentence under the search listing that identifies who sent it.
So our vacation planner’s next search is Yosemite. This time he’s looking for campsites, and he finds a link that takes him to a friend’s Flickr account, where she’s posted images from the place she camped when she went to Yosemite last year. He decides that it looks like a great place to camp…and coincidentally remembers that he needs to get a new camera for the trip.
So he searches for a good camera for outdoor photography, and finds a Blogger blog result. He doesn’t recognize the name at first, but hovering over the person’s name reveals that he’s been following her Twitter feed; she’s a professional photographer. So he visits her blog to find out which camera she recommends.
Google notes that if you’re not seeing very many Social Search results, you can expand and improve them in a number of ways. You can create a Google profile and connect your other public profiles from social websites, such as Twitter and Flickr, to your Google account and profile. You can also add links to your own public content, such as your Blogger blog. Subscribing to interesting content and following interesting people in Google Reader will also enrich your Social Search experience.
Social Search results are unique to the searcher, because every searcher has a slightly different constellation of contacts. These results may rank anywhere on the page; Google places them according to their relevance to your search. As Google explains in a blog entry, “Social search results are only visible to you and only appear when you choose to log in to your Google Account. If you’re signed in, Google makes a best guess about whose public content you may want to see in your results, including people from your Google chat buddy list, your Google Contacts, the people you’re following in Google Reader and Buzz, and the networks you’ve linked from your Google profile or Google Account. For public networks like Twitter, Google finds your friends and sees who they’re publicly connected to as well.”
For more on this topic, visit http://googlesocialweb.blogspot.com/2011/05/social-search-goes-global.html.