Social search is a form of enhanced search that combines traditional impersonal search algorithms with information taken from a user’s online social networks. This data from the users’ online social groups and networks allows a social search engine to return personalised, and hopefully more relevant results for a specific search query.
Popular social search engines include Social Searcher, Smashfuse, SocialMention and the recently defunct Topsy. At present social search engines primarily search user-generated or promoted content including news feeds, images and videos from social media platforms like media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The benefits of social search
Social search can leverage social media’s ability to keep up with current and emerging trends and events to provide more up-to-date results.
As search results are retrieved from content from within a user’s online social sphere, results have been viewed and recommended by the user’s peers and are thus more likely to be in line with the users preferences.
Social search places value on personal feedback from other users in a searcher’s social networks rather than on links like a traditional search algorithm. This reduces the utility and possibility of link spamming techniques.
By leveraging the positive and negative impressions of the searcher’s social circle when returning results for a search query, social search allows the user to create further networks of trusted peers.
Because users have the ability to directly add content onto social platforms, without safeguards a social search engine could be rapidly overloaded with spam content. This risk could be mitigated by the implantation of algorithm’s to evaluate new content against that of trusted users.
Because search queries on social media platforms tend to be short, social search largely precludes the use of any long tail search terms. This is because there is unlikely to be relevant user generated or promoted content for these rarely searched terms
Social Search in 2016
2015 was a pivotal year for social search, with Apple-owned analytics and real-time search engine Topsy, being shut down in December. This announcement came just two months after Facebook quietly announced the launch of its own social search engine named Search FYI. The development Search FYI required the indexing of nearly two trillion public posts, some dating back to the founding of Facebook 12 years ago, and works by combing data from Facebooks’ News Feed and Timeline.
With the overall trend of declining mobile browser usage continuing into 2016, as users increasing utilise apps, social search represents new opportunities for companies and social media marketers. Emerging social search platforms like Search FYI make it possible to browse a user’s reactions to major events, news and trending topics both historically and in real-time. Utilised properly, this data will allow social media and search marketers to better target users across social and display networks to generate that essential high intention and high CPC traffic.