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Social search is not new

Note: Guest blogger Roupert Muller is an aficionado of life, sports fan, curious and has a soft spot for things made in Italy. He works as an independent marketing & PR consultant + content producer when he’s not running around as a freelance journalist with a love for design, fashion and lifestyle, or producing (online) videos. He’s based in the Netherlands and can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.

The term social search has probably reached you by now and if it hasn’t, it will (trust me). The speed of change in PR and social marketing is at times dizzying indeed. Every other day seems to bring with it a new buzzword of some sort. I can imagine it can get difficult to filter out the stuff that matters to you and your business. So, I’m going to try and make this as simple as possible and start off by saying: social search is not new. You’ve actually been a part of it ever since you were able ­to communicate.

Let’s start by technically defining social search, according to Wikipedia:

Social search or a social search engine is a type of web search that takes into account the Social Graph (= the global mapping of people and how they’re related) of the person initiating the search query…Search results produced by social search engines give more visibility to content created or touched by users in the Social Graph.

So what does this really mean in the realm of PR? Have a look at the intimacy of Facebook and Bing. In case you missed it, Bing has integrated Facebook ‘likes’ into its search results. So, if you were to go to Bing – whilst being logged on to Facebook – and type in a search, the results will show who of your friends like the result(s) shown in your search. Think of a specific restaurant or clothing brand, etc. Google+ does something similar with its +1 icon next to search results. Taking these definitions into account, I view social search then as an overview of word of mouth. And PR is of course be a driving force in generating word of mouth amongst your audience, both online and offline.

The bottom line is obvious: companies want to generate income. Social search is going to help. Why? Simple… Word of mouth advertising is not only free, it’s arguably the most powerful form of advertising a brand or company can have. Think about it, which do you trust more for picking a place to take a client for lunch: a recommendation from a good friend, an anonymous review from a website or an ad you saw on TV? Chances are, you answered your friend and if it turned out to be a good dining experience, you’re likely more than happy to pass on that lunch spot to your friends.

As consumers, social search is nothing new because we have been asking for opinions and recommendations from our peers for ages. However, the technologies and platforms within which social search is becoming increasingly important is new (great example of a new app is we & co). In previous times you might have called a few friends or your parents to ask for a recommendation. Nowadays one will most likely post something on a variety of social platforms in order to get recommendations. This means brands would be wise to offer value to their friends, fans and followers to encourage them to suggest the brand (or restaurant or whatever) to their friends when a request pops up in their news stream (interesting article by Brian Solis on the importance of ‘value’ brands should offer their audience).

There is also an offline enforcer of social search and it is quite the obvious: people. Social search is not the sole responsibility of the Marketing or PR department / agency (Bernie Borges also emphasizes this in his post on social search). Rather it’s about the entire company being aware of what they communicate and how and where they choose to do so. Employees are the most important customers and thus your best ambassadors. Ambassadors that are ready to spread the word about your company (both good and bad). Think of birthday parties or family get-togethers, what do you talk about? I’m guessing work is a hot topic. Other topics most likely include gadgets, fashion, cars, sports, celebrity gossip, personal care products, etc. Brand names fly through the air like raindrops in the fall. And everything discussed can – and probably will be – shared on some social platform or the other.

Essentially, social search is seeking out trusted recommendations from people you know. Just as you would like your brand or company to appear up high on a Google or Bing Web search, you’d like to be top-of-mind for consumers as well because they have the power to influence potential customers. This translates into more commercial activity, traffic to your website, etc. So while the concept of “social search” isn’t new, the means by which it is conducted are. Keep this in mind not only while developing your PR and marketing strategies, but also about how it pertains to your company overall.

How important is the concept of “social search” to you and your company? Have you seen or used any interesting strategies or tactics?

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