This week Google unveiled Google Social Search, an opt-in feature that provides additional search results with content from a user’s “social circle” of friends and trusted sources. A limited number of listings will appear at the bottom of the main search result pages or users can drill down to see more extensive listings:
Currently a social circle is determined by the social media accounts linked from a user’s Google Profile, the feeds they subscribe to in Google Reader and their Google chat and Gmail contacts. So if you link to your Twitter account on your Google profile the people you’re following on Twitter become part of your social circle. The same goes for the sites and blogs you follow via Google Reader.
It’s still an experimental feature in Google Labs and users have to be signed into their Google account to use it so it’s safe to say that adoption of Social Search will be slow. But in case in takes off the questions businesses should be asking themselves now are: Are we in our target audiences’ social circles? If not how do we get there?
For news and content sites the task is fairly straightforward as lots of users are already subscribed to their RSS feeds, Twitter accounts, Facebook Pages, etc. Such sites also produce new content every day, so there are plenty of things that Google can pull from in creating social results. Other types of businesses will have to be more creative, which is where smart content marketing and social media strategies come into play.
I don’t believe it is currently possible for businesses to create Google Profiles in the same way that they can create Facebook Pages but the individual(s) responsible for their social media outreach can build up social circles through their own Profiles, just like they do in a variety of social media outlets.
There have been many Google features over the years that never gained traction – a few years ago Subscribed Links offered a similar opportunity for content sites but never found mainstream adoption. But Social Search has a better chance of making it, so it’s a good idea to start developing a strategy for it now.