Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Is Social Network Search the Way of the Future?

I doubt it, but this article intrigued me. Are social networks really likely to become a viable threat to such search behemoths as Google, Yahoo! and MSN Live Search? Who knows. In my opinion though, it seems far more likely that the large search engines will instead venture further into social network territory.

To date, very few social media applications have succesfully made the transition from one platform to another. The latest strategy involves simply incorporating a number of external technologies into one's business model, as is most obvious within those social networks that offer optional applications that can be added by users at will. With search though, a number of the social networks are incorporating their own offerings; a risky strategy given the power of the existing search facilities.

As I see it, social networks have two options for the incorporation of search. Firstly, they could attempt to create their own search facility which is then made available to users within the social network. Clearly, the strongest benefit of such a strategy would revolve around the organisation's access to a wealth of user generated content. Search engines would kill for this information; in fact, one of my recent posts examined the patenting of influence ranking software by Google. The software, which allows the gauging of influence through analysis of social network rankings, has the potential to redefine targeted social media advertising. Such software will only be possible if the search facility is able to gain access to content from numerous social network providers. At present, this seems unlikely. Conversely, the organisation could effectively outsource search. By allowing large search facility providers access to the data contained within the network, social networks could profit by demanding a percentage of the income afforded by enhanced targeting abilities. This seems like one of the more viable solutions considering the present difficulties social network providers face in achieving profitability.

Attempts to expand a personalised search facility beyond the boundaries of the network require cataloging of the vast swaths of information; information which is already accessible through the established search providers. This seems like a considerable effort when recognising that collaboration may in fact allow both parties to prosper.

As always, thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Very insightful article, Chris.

    My personal belief is that, while social media is still going through the evolutionary stage that it currently is, there won't be any real attempts to expand into search engine territory.

    However, if just one of the social media sites can become "the Google" of their field (as one of my readers mentioned on a blog comment) then I feel you may see a correlation between the two.

    Whether that's by Google taking the social media site in question under its wing, or the opposite and the site going it alone, remains to be seen.

    Having seen the efforts and subsequent embarrassment of the Cuil launch, my money's on the former.

  2. It's interesting isn't it Danny. Social networks seem to represent an unprecedented source of consumer information, but this information holds substantially less value for individuals than it does it organisations. Whilst it may be useful for individuals to use social network search to find users with similar interests, more profitably it allows organisations to target consumers like never before. Were the search to be targeted as a B2B tool, I think internal social network search has real potential.